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Life Safety Starts With Me
By Bernita Carmichael, Managing Director at SAFEPAC
Published: 10/06/2014

Lifesavor 000007384505medium People are the most valuable objects on the planet. Although this is a highly debatable subject, I welcome the Corrections community to draw on history from ancient times up until the present day. Human beings are rich in labor; marketable, in demand, sought after for resources, and possess valuable organs. People are the reason we have “Life Safety”; we are known to make human errors and we desire to prevent reoccurrence of these errors. Knowing that human beings expire (not knowing how, when, or where), this is why all lives matter. Our lives are so significant, Life Safety is globally recognized by industries such as trades, unions, safety, fire, environmental, and safety code issuing agencies. The primary goal of Life Safety is to protect and evacuate building occupants who face hazards, imminent danger, illness, or injury. In the world of Life Safety, “Life” is the priority; and property is secondary.

Building occupants of institutions, i.e., correctional facilities, schools, hospitals, halfway houses, and group homes, face the same amount of risks/disasters as we do in our own private living spaces.

What types of risks/disasters do we face?

The following risks/disasters are nationally and globally recognized:



When building occupants, attorneys, or media discover a shortfall or gap in your life safety management, their biggest question is, “What are you going to do about it?” How do I know? Well, let’s look at some of the published works from the media and some activist organizations to see how they capture the safety of correctional institutions:

ACLU Report Details Horrors Suffered by Orleans Parish Prisoners in Wake of Hurricane Katrina

"The prisoners inside the Orleans Parish Prison suffered some of the worst horrors of Hurricane Katrina," said Eric Balaban, a staff attorney for the National Prison Project. "Because society views prisoners as second-class citizens, their stories have largely gone unnoticed and therefore untold."

American Civil Liberties Union [SIC]:

II. PREPARING FOR THE STORM “We’re going to keep our prisoners where they belong.”

When the Mayor began to field questions, he was asked about the decision notto evacuate the prisoners in OPP. Mayor Nagin referred the question to Sheriff Gusman, who responded: “[W]e have backup generators to accommodate any power loss. . . .We’re fully staffed. We’re under our emergency operations plan. . . . [W]e’ve been working with the police department—so we’re going to keep our prisoners where they belong.”12


CNN WORLD-More than 300 killed in Honduras prison fire

"Everyone ran for their lives," said one survivor who spoke briefly to local television cameras.

The U.S. State Department published a report last April painting a damning portrait of conditions in Honduras' 24 prisons.


CBS NEWS-Deaths, injuries in apparent gas explosion at Florida jail

"The explosion shook us so hard it was like we were in an earthquake," Monique Barnes, an inmate who said she was knocked off her fourth-floor bunk, told The Associated Press by phone. "It was like a movie, a horrible, horrible movie."

CNN Justice-'Complete destruction': 2 die, dozens hurt as explosion shatters Florida jail

"We don't know if they're dead or alive. It's really frustrating," Eva Stewart told the station. "I can't sleep not knowing if my child's OK. I got other family members in there, too. I don't know if they're OK."

I recall these statements often, “Our jails were built to withstand anything because they are made of steel and concrete.” As stated in previous articles, we are in a cultural shift and technology is the driver. The next generations are in their labs testing out theories, forming conclusions, and delivering solutions. We have to be equally concerned when it comes to protecting and evacuating our building occupants. As stated before, Corrections has been its own little island for many years and in this day and time it’s time to get plugged in. One recommendation for Corrections (on the house of course) is that Corrections will benefit forming a Community Outreach Division; a team of two or three (at least one local) should do the job. Many of our Public Safety partners have implemented this model. It is also a good model for Corrections because we are responsible for the safety of our employees, contractors, returning citizens, and visitors. In efforts to make corrections a priority; we have to get moving and be civically engaged. Corrections can give back by providing interagency support to Police, Fire, Transportation, Health Department, Parks and Recreation, and more. If we are a public-safety family, we should get off the bench; it’s football season! Correctional Officers’ talents are far greater than security checks every 30 minutes and the use of pepper spray. Even politicians have Constituent Services. Corrections has an immediate need to adopt a Community Outreach Division. #LifeSafetyMatters! Life Safety focus isn’t on a single group or single population of people; it captures the whole community (Executive Order buzzwords) and all occupancy uses. Everyone is affected and the bottom line is #AllLivesMatter. Here’s a fresh start; read aloud:

Life Safety Starts With Me

Life Safety Matters


National Fire Prevention Week is October 5th through October 11th of 2014. Make Institutions a priority by hash tagging your social media sites: #SAFEPAC #LifeSafetyMatters and share your commitment to Life Safety. Review life safety basics for home such as:
  1. Home Emergency Plan (kids, adults, elderly, disabled, and pets)
  2. Emergency Contact List
  3. Emergency Bag/Kits (Home & Vehicle)
  4. Local Shelters
  5. Home Communications Plans (Risk of losing Mobile and/or Landline)
  6. Home Transportation Plan (boats, canoe, bike, car, scooter, Segway, and etc.)
  7. Personal Protective Equipment
  8. General Housekeeping Practices (Seen Hoarders)
Review life safety basics for work such as:
  1. Emergency Support Functions www.fema.gov
  2. Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s and/or Interagency ESF Support)
  3. Emergency Response Plans (youth, adults, elderly, disabled and pets,)
  4. Communications Plans (Interoperability. Hope Corrections is participating in FirstNet State Consultations http://www.firstnet.gov/)
  5. Continuity of Operations Plans
  6. Emergency Supplies/Bag/Kits (Including Personal or Fleet Vehicle)
  7. Alternate Facilities and Local Shelters (Detention/Prison/Halfway Houses)
  8. Mass Transportation Plan (mobile command vehicles, fleet vehicles, boats, canoe, bike, car, scooter, Segway, and etc.)
  9. Mass Care Plans (Institutional Health Services see IS-200 HCA fema.gov)
  10. Personal Protective Equipment
  11. Critical Infrastructure Protection
  12. Review meeting minutes from local and regional primary and support public safety partners
  13. Review Housekeeping Practices
In summary, Life Safety Starts with Me; it represents the Whole Community because #LifeSafetyMatters.

#SAFEPAC “Partner with Safety”

Corrections.com author Bernita Carmichael began her 12-year long career in corrections with the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) Central Treatment Facility (CTF) in Washington, D.C. For the last six years she has been a ProBoard Registered Fire Protection Specialist and Registered OSHA Instructor for the District of Columbia Department of Corrections where she built a fire and safety program from the ground up. She has also contributed to the delivering of Department of Homeland Security Grants into Emergency Management/Interoperability Communications. She also sits as the Secretary on the District of Columbia Homeland Security Interoperability Communications Committee spearheaded by the DC Statewide Interoperability Coordinator Jeffrey Wobbleton and governed by the Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Paul Quander. Her passion to serve has birthed her newest creation as Managing Director of SAFEPAC which she states, "Is a seed in progress" for the many seeds her supporters have planted in her.

Other articles by Bernita



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