Understanding Hurricanes: Know The Risk

hurricane-fb-shutterstock_125236457Hurricanes have the power to cause widespread devastation, and can affect both coastal and inland areas. How to Prepare for a Hurricane explains how to protect yourself and your property, and details the steps to take now so that you can act quickly at a time when every second counts.

  • Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over the water and move toward land. Threats from hurricanes include high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surge, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, and tornadoes. These large storms are called typhoons in the North Pacific Ocean and cyclones in other parts of the world.
  • The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale classifies hurricanes into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and wind damage With wind speeds of 111 miles per hour or more, Category 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes are major according to this scale. Category 1 and 2 hurricanes can also cause damage and injuries. The Saffir-Simpson scale is shown at the end of this document.
  • The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring between mid-August and late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30. Each year, many parts of the United States experience heavy rains, strong winds, floods, and coastal storm surges from tropical storms and hurricanes. Affected areas include all Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, parts of the Southwest, the Pacific Coast, and the U.S. territories in the Pacific.
  • Hurricanes can cause loss of life and catastrophic damage to property along coastlines and can extend several hundred miles inland. The extent of damage varies according to the size and wind intensity of the storm, the amount and duration of rainfall, the path of the storm, and other factors such as the number and type of buildings in the area, the terrain, and soil conditions. The effects include the following:
    • Death or injury to people and animals;
    • Damage or destruction of buildings and other structures;
    • Disruption of transportation, gas, power, communications, and other services;
    • Coastal flooding from heavy rains and storm surge; and
    • Inland flooding from heavy rains.


know risk

The above is an excerpt taken from the article, “How To Prepare For A Hurricane.” For more information please visit www.ready.gov.

Office Workers, On Your Feet!

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Desk jockeys should make a point to stand up for at least two hours during the workday in order to avoid the negative health consequences linked to too much sitting, new research suggests.

Gradually break up periods of prolonged sitting until you’re on your feet four hours a day, advises a panel of international experts. Aside from taking regular walks throughout the workday, desk-bound employees can opt for sit-stand desks or workstations that require them to stand.

The recommendations are based on an analysis of research that links prolonged periods spent seated with a heightened risk of serious illness and premature death.

“The evidence is clearly emerging that a first ‘behavioral’ step could be simply to get people standing and moving more frequently as part of their working day,” the study authors reported online June 1 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Increasing the amount of time that people stand could be a more achievable goal than encouraging more daily exercise, the researchers said in a journal news release.

The report was commissioned by Public Health England, which is an agency of the U.K. Department of Health, and another British organization, Active Working Community Interest Company.

Among the panel’s other recommendations for office workers:

  • Move around. Standing in one place for too long can also have harmful health effects. Changing your posture or position, or going on a brief walk can reduce the risk for musculoskeletal pain and fatigue.
  • Employers can warn their staff about the health risks associated with prolonged sitting or being sedentary both in the office and at home.
  • Employers can invest in the health of their staff by designing working environments that encourage more activity.

The researchers acknowledged that the materials they reviewed don’t prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship between prolonged sitting and chronic illness.

Still, they believe on-the-job adjustments are in order. “While longer-term intervention studies are required, the level of consistent evidence accumulated to date, and the public health context of rising chronic diseases, suggest initial guidelines are justified,” the panel wrote.

The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Office Workers, On Your Feet!.” For more information, please visit www.sba.gov.

Reduce Stress by Taking Care of Yourself

relaxed-office-fb-shutterstock_107041832Reduce job stress by taking care of yourself

When stress at work interferes with your ability to perform in your job, manage your personal life, or adversely impacts your health, it’s time to take action. Start by paying attention to your physical and emotional health. When your own needs are taken care of, you’re stronger and more resilient to stress. The better you feel, the better equipped you’ll be to manage work stress without becoming overwhelmed.

Taking care of yourself doesn’t require a total lifestyle overhaul. Even small things can lift your mood, increase your energy, and make you feel like you’re back in the driver’s seat. Take things one step at a time, and as you make more positive lifestyle choices, you’ll soon notice a reduction in your stress levels, both at home and at work.

Get moving

Regular exercise is a powerful stress reliever—even though it may be the last thing you feel like doing. Aerobic exercise—activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat—is a hugely effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body. For maximum stress relief, try to get at least 30 minutes of heart-pounding activity on most days. If it’s easier to fit into your schedule, break up the activity into two or three shorter segments.

Make food choices that keep you goingeatinghealthyshutterstock_131983145

Low blood sugar can make you feel anxious and irritable, while eating too much can make you lethargic. Healthy eating can help you get through stressful work days. By eating small but frequent meals, you can help your body maintain an even level of blood sugar, keep your energy up, stay focused, and avoid mood swings.

Drink alcohol in moderation and avoid nicotine

Alcohol temporarily reduces anxiety and worry, but too much can cause anxiety as it wears off. Drinking to relieve job stress may also eventually lead to alcohol abuse and dependence. Similarly, smoking when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed may seem calming, but nicotine is a powerful stimulant – leading to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.

Get enough sleep

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Not only can stress and worry can cause insomnia, but a lack of sleep can leave you vulnerable to even more stress. When you’re well-rested, it’s much easier to keep your emotional balance, a key factor in coping with job and workplace stress. Try to improve the quality of your sleep by keeping a sleep schedule and aiming for 8 hours a night.

The above is an excerpt taken from the article, “Stress at Work.” For more information please visit www.helpguide.org.

How to Communicate During a Disaster

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The idea of returning to “business as usual” when you’re in the middle of a disaster can seem impossible.  While it is absolutely possible to make a full recovery, especially with the resources available to your business, many business owners overlook one of the most important parts of disaster recovery and business continuity – communication.

How your business communicates during and following a disaster can directly affect your business’s ability to recover.  Misleading information, even from outsiders, can drive speculation about a damaged business – which is why precise, effective communication – both to the public and internally – is absolutely critical during and following a disaster.

Crisis Communication 101

Planning is a key component of disaster preparedness and recovery, especially when it comes to communication.  Don’t wait for disaster to strike to create a crisis communication plan.  Your plan should not only consider the various avenues you have to communicate, but also your different audiences – customers, employees, vendors, your community, etc.

We depend so much on digital communication and electronics, but a traditional phone tree can be immensely helpful during a crisis.  Ensure that your business has alternate contact information for everyone you might need to reach, internally and externally, and provide hard copies that are easy to access.

You may also want to consider an alert notification system of some kind to send out text, email, or phone alerts through systems that are separate from your primary systems.   Similarly, you may want to have a standard operating procedure in place for communication via Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels.   Social media gives us the ability to push out information quickly to large groups of people, and should not be overlooked as a critical tool for crisis communication.

Top Tips

Here is a simple list of tips to get your company’s crisis communication plan started:

  • Develop (and keep updated) an emergency contact list that includes home phone numbers, alternate mobile numbers, personal email addresses, family contact information, and a phone tree assignment system.
  • Establish an evacuation plan and review it with employees on a regular basis.
  • Look into email and/or text alert systems that can facilitate multiple means of communications to both employees and customers – and be sure to test the system on a regular basis.
  • Develop an SOP for your online social networks for Web-based crisis communications on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
  • Develop a plan to work with local media when you can.  With proper planning, the media can serve in a support role as your business works to rebuild after a disaster.  This means you’ll also need to designate a spokesperson/group of spokespersons and provide some sort of basic media training.  All employees should know which members of the staff are media trained, and create key messaging points for these individuals to ensure consistent voice and message during a disaster.
  • Similarly, as best you can, monitor what is said and written about your company during and after a disaster – it may provide more insight on the strengths and weaknesses of your business strategy than you realize.

The Bottom Line

Beyond communication, it’s always smart to conduct a debrief following a disaster to evaluate any lessons learned and to work to improve your crisis communication plan for future use.

The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “How to Communicate During a Disaster.” For more information, please visit www.sba.gov.

Keep In Mind: More Notes About Exercise and Work

Just as an athlete prepares before playing a sport, you too should prepare before work to help prevent back injuries. These slow stretches help prevent back injuries and make your muscles more flexible. Hold each position for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times before work.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise stretches and strengthens the muscles that support your low back, which combined with healthy eating can also help you maintain your ideal weight. If you’re overweight, the extra pounds add to the strain on your lower back. Aerobic exercise like walking, can help you lose weight.

Proper Rest

The best position for resting the back muscles is lying on your back on your living room floor with a pillow under your knees and a rolled up towel under your neck. You can also lie on your side in the fetal position—bend the knees to reduce strain on the lower back and put a pillow between your knees, and under your head and neck to keep them level.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Exercises and Stretches” For more information, please visit www.ors.od.nih.gov.

Tips to Prevent Poisonings

hisp-family--shutterstock_106066877Drugs and Medicines

  • Only take prescription medications that are prescribed to you by a healthcare professional. Misusing or abusing prescription or over-the-counter medications is not a “safe” alternative to illicit substance abuse.
  • Never take larger or more frequent doses of your medications, particularly prescription pain medications, to try to get faster or more powerful effects.
  • Never share or sell your prescription drugs. Keep all prescription medicines (especially prescription painkillers, such as those containing methadone, hydrocodone, or oxycodone), over-the-counter medicines (including pain or fever relievers and cough and cold medicines), vitamins and herbals in a safe place that can only be reached by people who take or give them.
  • Follow directions on the label when you give or take medicines. Read all warning labels. Some medicines cannot be taken safely when you take other medicines or drink alcohol.
  • Turn on a light when you give or take medicines at night so that you know you have the correct amount of the right medicine.
  • Keep medicines in their original bottles or containers.
  • Monitor the use of medicines prescribed for children and teenagers, such as medicines for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.1
  • Dispose of unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs.
  • Participate in National Drug Take Back days recognized by the Drug Enforcement Administration or local take back programs in your community. External Web Site Icon

baby-household-small-products-shutterstock_98214476Household Chemicals and Carbon Monoxide

Information about drug overdoses and carbon monoxide poisoning can be found on other CDC web pages; seesources of additional information below for the relevant website.
  • Always read the label before using a product that may be poisonous.
  • Keep chemical products in their original bottles or containers. Do not use food containers such as cups, bottles, or jars to store chemical products such as cleaning solutions or beauty products.
  • Never mix household products together. For example, mixing bleach and ammonia can result in toxic gases.
  • Wear protective clothing (gloves, long sleeves, long pants, socks, shoes) if you spray pesticides or other chemicals.
  • Turn on the fan and open windows when using chemical products such as household cleaners.

Keep Young Children Safe from Poisoning

Be Prepared

  • Put the poison help number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near every home telephone and save it on your cell phone. The line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Be Smart about Storage

Photo: woman examining pill bottle
    • Store all medicines and household products up and away and out of sight in a cabinet where a child cannot reach them.
    • When you are taking or giving medicines or are using household products:
      • Do not put your next dose on the counter or table where children can reach them—it only takes seconds for a child to get them.
      • If you have to do something else while taking medicine, such as answer the phone, take any young children with you.
      • Secure the child safety cap completely every time you use a medicine.
      • After using them, do not leave medicines or household products out.  As soon as you are done with them,  put them away and out of sight in a cabinet where a child cannot reach them.
      • Be aware of any legal or illegal drugs that guests may bring into your home. Ask guests to store drugs where children cannot find them.  Children can easily get into pillboxes, purses, backpacks, or coat pockets.

Proper Disposal

For more information on proper disposal, please see the FDA’s web site, Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should KnowExternal Web Site Icon.

Other Tips

      • Do not call medicine “candy.”

What To Do If A Poisoning Occurs

    • Remain calm.
    • Call 911 if you have a poison emergency and the victim has collapsed or is not breathing. If the victim is awake and alert, dial 1-800-222-1222. Try to have this information ready:
      • the victim’s age and weight
      • the container or bottle of the poison if available
      • the time of the poison exposure
      • the address where the poisoning occurred
    • Stay on the phone and follow the instructions from the emergency operator or poison control center.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Tips to Prevent Poisonings” For more information, please visit www.cdc.gov.

Exercises to Prevent Back Pain

back-pain-fb-shutterstock_180166184It doesn’t take much time to improve the strength and flexibility of your back. In just 10 minutes a day, you can perform a few exercises, which can prevent a lifetime of low back pain!

Partial Sit-up

This exercise strengthens your stomach muscles:Partial sit-up
  • Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor, keeping your hands across your chest.
  • Work up to 30 repetitions.

Bridge

This exercise strengthens your low back:
  • Lie on your back with both knees Person demonstrating bridge exercisebent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • With arms lying at your sides, tighten stomach muscles, squeeze buttocks, and slowly raise your hips into the air. Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly bring the buttocks back to the floor.
  • Repeat 20 times.

 Wall Slide

Person demonstrating wall slideThis exercise strengthens your back and leg muscles:
  • Stand with your back against a wall and your feet slightly apart.
  • Slide into a half-sit. Hold as long as you can; slide back up.
  • Repeat 5 times.

The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Exercises and Stretches” For more information, please visit www.ors.od.nih.gov.

Effective Business Signage: 6 Factors

What’s the first thing that prospective customers see when they approach your business? Your signage tells them where you are, draws their attention and attracts them into your business (or possibly drives them away). Summing up your business brand for the world to see, your business signage creates that all-important first impression. How can you ensure it’s a good one? Whether you’re developing signage for a new business, or updating signage for an existing business, here are some things to consider.

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  1. What are the constraints affecting signage in your area? Your city’s local zoning ordinances will typically govern the type of signage a business can have. For instance, there may be restrictions on the size of a sign, how it can be lighted and even the colors used. Your business location (such as a strip center, mall or downtown pedestrian area) may have its own restrictions. For instance, in one shopping center near my home, all businesses’ signs have to use the same font and a limited palette of colors to create a more uniform look.
  2. What do you want to include in your sign? Your sign is a 24/7 branding tool, so ideally, you want to include your business logo and use your business’s color palette so that your signage harmonizes with the other visual aspects of your brand. However, if you have a complex logo or can’t use it for other reasons (such as zoning restrictions), try to at least use fonts and colors that tie in with your brand.
  3. Think practical. We’ve all seen examples of the business whose store sign is in a beautiful script that looks pretty, but is impossible to read—especially if you’re whizzing by in a car going 45 miles an hour. Always remember that the purpose of your sign is 1) to help customers find you and 2) to get prospects to notice you. A hard-to-read sign might attract attention of prospects with time on their hands (“What’s that say?”), but it will only frustrate customers trying to find you. Make sure your business signage is large enough, contrasting enough and the font clear enough to be easily readable from across the street, across the parking lot or wherever else your customers may be coming from.
  4. Consider placement. Where your signage is placed has a big effect, too. A sign that’s easy to read when lit at night may be hard to see in the bright light of day, when there’s a lot of glare or when the sun hits it from a certain direction. Before investing in a permanent sign, try testing a banner with the same colors, fonts and font sizes in different places on your building. You may discover that you need signs on two sides of your building; that tall trucks parked nearby block the view of your sign; or that a neighbor’s awning obstructs it from the street. Best to learn this now before you spend money on permanent installation.
  5. Investigate additional signage options. Talk to your property landlord about options for additional signage to help attract more attention to your business. For instance, if your business is far off the street in the back of a big shopping center or office park, it may be impossible for customers to see from the road. In this case, see if the center will consider putting up directional signs at the center entrances listing which businesses are where. Strengthen your case by getting other businesses to ask for the same thing.
  6. Keep it up. Once your sign is up, spend the time and money to maintain it. Replace burned-out bulbs promptly and keep it clean. Nothing turns prospective customers off like a broken or partially burned-out sign. It tells people you don’t care—and when they see that, they won’t care to do business with you.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Effective Business Signage: 6 Factors” For more information, please visit www.sba.gov.

Musculoskeletal Exercises

office-stretch-fb-shutterstock_129681527Deep Breathing

  • While standing, or in an otherwise relaxed position.
  • Place one hand on the abdomen and one on the chest.
  • Inhale slowly through the nose.
  • Hold for 4 seconds.
  • Exhale slowly through the mouth.
  • Repeat.

Cable Stretch

  • While sitting with chin in, stomach in, shoulders relaxed, hands relaxed in lap, and feet flat on the floor, imagine a cable pulling your head upward.
  • Hold for 3 seconds and relax.
  • Repeat 3 times.

Side Bend: Neck Stretch

  • Side Neck Stretch imageTilt head to one side (ear towards shoulder).
  • Hold for 15 seconds.
  • Relax.
  • Repeat 3 times on each side.

Diagonal Neck Stretch

  • Diagonal Neck Stretch imageTurn head slightly and then look down as if looking in your pocket.
  • Hold for 15 seconds.
  • Relax.
  • Repeat 3 times on each side.

Shoulder Shrug

  • Slowly bring shoulders up to the ears and hold for approximately 3 seconds.
  • Rotate shoulders back and down.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Executive Stretch

  • Executive Stretch imageWhile sitting, lock hands behind head.
  • Bring elbows back as far as possible.
  • Inhale deeply while leaning back and stretching.
  • Hold for 20 seconds.
  • Exhale and relax.
  • Repeat 1 time.

Foot Rotation

  • foot rotation imageWhile sitting, slowly rotate each foot from the ankle.
  • Rotate 3 times in one direction, then 3 times in the opposite direction.
  • Relax.
  • Repeat 1 time.

Hand Shake

  • While sitting, drop arms to the side.
  • Shake hands downward gently.
  • Repeat frequently.

Hand Massage (Note: Perform very gently!)

  • Massage the inside and outside of the hand using the thumb and fingers.
  • Repeat frequently (including before beginning work).

Finger Massage (Note: Perform very gently!)

  • Massage fingers of each hand individually, slowly, and gently.
  • Move toward nail gently.
  • Massage space between fingers.
  • Perform daily.

Wrist Stretch

  • Hold arm straight out in front of you.
  • Pull the hand backwards with the other hand, then pull downward.
  • Hold for 20 seconds.
  • Relax.
  • Repeat 3 times each.
wrist stretch up image               wrist stretch down image
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Exercises and Stretches” For more information, please visit www.ors.od.nih.gov.

Employee Fraud: What You Can Do About It

Employees are one of your biggest assets, even though they don’t appear on your balance sheet. They help you operate your business and are the faces of your company brand. But employees can also be a big liability if they steal from you. What can you do to protect yourself?

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Acknowledge the problem

*Recent statisticsDownload Adobe Reader to read this link content found that companies lose 5% of their revenues each year to employee fraud. Companies with fewer than 100 employees had 28% higher fraud losses than larger companies.

Fraud can take many forms, including outright theft of property (from paper clips to expensive inventory items), subtle theft by wasting time (focus on personal matters, sports events or other distractions), to embezzlement of company funds. Employees can be very creative in devising ways to steal from you, including creating bogus customers and invoices to siphon funds from the company.

Wise staffing practices

Having the best employees on your staff can go a long way in minimizing or avoiding fraud inside your company.

  • Do background checks before hiring anyone new. You can check public records to look for bankruptcies and criminal records without permission from the job applicant. If you want to do a credit check (there’s debate about whether a bad credit rating is any indication of potential employee fraud), you’ll need permission. Note: About a dozen states bar employers from doing credit checks of job applicants and employees and Congress is considering similar federal legislation (see S. 1837Download Adobe Reader to read this link content).
  • Get to know your staff so you can detect potentially bad situations. Those with financial difficulties, such as an employee experiencing a home foreclosure or one with a gambling problem, may feel impelled to steal. Those displaying unaccounted wealth, such as a Lamborghini suddenly being driven by an employee who was previously driving a Ford Focus, may raise suspicions.
  • Create the right company culture. Let employees know how seriously you view any theft.

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Implement systems for protection

As with the three branches of the federal government, checks and balances can prevent an employee from manipulating financial data. The less opportunity that employees have to steal, the lower the incidence of such action will be.

Frequent inventories can monitor and detect any employee theft of company property. Bring your accountant in to review your inventory and other financial information.

Make it clear that employee theft will not be tolerated and that violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Unfortunately, some small business owners ignore illegal activity, which then breeds more of the same.

Be vigilant

As the business owner, it’s up to you to oversee what’s going on in your business. Look for clues that something nefarious may be going on, such as a bookkeeper who never takes a vacation or declines to delegate work. Limit review of the monthly bank statement to you and, perhaps, your accountant; don’t leave it to the bookkeeper to review the statement before you see it.

Create an anonymous reporting system for employees to tell you about suspected fraud without fear of retaliation. Tips are the *most common method of detection (), yet fewer than 20% of small companies have a system in place, compared with 70% of larger firms. If you want to implement a reporting system, it can be a web-based system or a special phone hotline for this purpose.

And keep your ears open to any talk from staff members about possible thefts that may be going on.

The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Employee Fraud: What You Can Do About It” For more information, please visit www.sba.gov.