Friday, April 29, 2016

Training through MN LTAP


The Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program (MN LTAP) is a great training resource for road crews. Here a couple of their upcoming courses.

Traffic Sign Maintenance Training Program
This is a free course and lunch is provided.
 
Minnesota Roadway Maintenance Training and Demo Day
The cost is $125 and includes parking, refreshments, lunch, and program materials.


By: Troy Walsh

Friday, April 1, 2016

Ransomware

Imagine a criminal breaking into your home, but instead of taking anything, they change the locks and tell you to pay them or they will not give you the new keys. This is what Ransomware does, though instead of your home, it is all of the files on your computer. Files you need to access in order to do your job. These criminals plan on using that need for their own profit.
 
Here is an article from The Washington Post that demonstrates just how bad this type of malware can be for your city.

What it is?

Ransomware is a type of malware that uses encryption to restrict access either by locking files or by inhibiting entry into the system altogether. Once the system is encrypted, it is very difficult, or impossible, to gain access again on your own. The malware operators then require payment before they unlock the system (which they may not do even if they are paid).
The pop up message requesting payment may be disguised as a fake warning pretending to be from a law enforcement agency locking your system claiming that it has been used for illegal purposes, or even Microsoft stating the version of windows you are running is pirated. Do not be fooled by this, call an IT professional and the police immediately. Do not turn any infected systems off either, doing so may actually make the IT pro’s job more difficult.

What you can do to protect yourself?

The typical method malware, such as ransomware, gets on your system is through some form of download.  It may be hidden in something you download, so be sure to only download files or programs from trusted sites.
Another method used to infect your computer is phishing emails. These are spam emails used to trick you into clicking a link that will take you to a fraudulent site that will download the malware to your system. Make sure you’re using some form of anti-virus software that includes email checking. The best practice is to delete any emails from sources you don’t know. Never click any links in emails unless they are from a trusted source. Also be wary of emails that appear to be from trusted sources that contain just links or a simple phrase such as, “check out this video!” or “this site is so great!” The trusted source may have gotten a virus, and that virus is sending those emails, or the email may contain a spoofed address.
For other ways to protect yourself, you can also check out our On the Line blog on this topic by LMC’s Greg Van Wormer.

Backup you system regularly!

It may be impossible to recover your files once they have been encrypted by ransomware; however, if you have your data backed up, you can limit the how much information you lose.
Cities should be backing up their systems, at least weekly (nightly is better!), and storing backups in a place safely offline and away from any computers that may become infected. Consider using a rotating backup schedule, allowing for multiple backups to be retained.  If you do use such a schedule please consult with your city’s Responsible Authority to ensure your backup schedule meets your city’s records retention schedule.   

What should you do if you get it?

Despite your best efforts, you may still find yourself the victim of ransomware. Should this be the case, call the police, an IT professional (if you have one in house), and LMCIT right away, as mitigation may be covered under your Property/Casualty insurance.  Whatever you do, Do Not Pay the Ransom, there is no guarantee they will actually remove the ransomware should you pay it.

Computers and the internet are a great resource, please remember to use them safely.



By: Cody Tuttle



Thursday, March 17, 2016

Electrical Shock Drowning (ESD)


May 28, 2011 Lake City, MN. A 50 year old man was electrocuted in Lake Pepin near a boat lift which had exposed wiring.
 
His dog was in the water, was shocked, and began to sink. Another man jumped in to rescue the dog but was shocked.  (The man did escape the water). The 50 year old man then jumped in for his dog, and the man appeared to have been electrocuted.
 
With spring coming quicker than the winter weather would lead you to believe, it’s time to start thinking about water safety. I am specifically talking about electrical systems on docks, piers and marinas, splash pads, public pools and let’s not forget fountains and other water features around town.
 
Not all cities have marinas or lakes with docks, but those that do need to really think about how those city features are used and maintained. These precautions can be related to pools, and water features around the city, which both adults and children are using for recreation as well. Just because someone isn’t swimming doesn’t mean they can’t wade, reach, or stand.
 
Electrical Shock Drowning (ESD) occurs in fresh water where minute amounts of AC current are present. As little as a few milliamps can incapacitate a person so they can’t move their muscles. This can occur with as little as 6mA to 16 milliamp (mA) of current. Most victims talk about a tingling in the water as they were swimming. Tingling can be felt with 1mA of current in the water. 6 milliamps will cause agonizing pain which is less than a third of the electricity used to light a 40 watt light bulb. 100 mA passing directly through the heart is almost always fatal. A voltage gradient of 2 volts per foot in fresh water is enough to kill a person who bridges it.    
 
Electric shock drowning can occur anywhere electricity is used near water, but is primarily most prevalent at marinas where boats are docked and plugged-in to shore power. Most cases of ESD occur in fresh water. Salt water has less resistance to electricity and the electrical gradient or difference in potential is very low. Fresh water has a higher resistance to electricity and therefore a higher electrical gradient or difference in potential. It is the difference in potential that makes it more dangerous. The electricity can cause a swimmers muscles to contract. They become immobile, can no longer move or swim, and drown.
 
All electrical circuits in and around water features need to be Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protected. The wiring and outlets should all be regularly inspected by a licensed electrician who is familiar with the electrical codes as they pertain to marinas and water features. All GFCI, regardless of location, should be tested at least monthly to ensure they are functioning. How about a pool or water feature which has electricity for lighting, electrical outlets, etc.? Those too need to be inspected and part of a preventative maintenance program. I have been at pools where there were swim meets and the teams brought their own timing equipment, extension cords, etc. The timers were plugged into outlets on the light poles around the perimeter of the pool. None of the outlets were GFCI protected, and none of the extension cords were GFCI protected. These could cause an electrical shock issue due to improperly wired equipment, damaged cords coupled with the wet pool deck, high traffic, etc. Given the hazards it is a good idea to regularly inspect all of the docks, boat lifts, marina wiring, pools, fountains, and water features that have electrical features to ensure the people visiting those facilities are protected. In the case of marinas and docks with power to them it is recommended they be posted with no swimming. The boats hooked to the power at the marinas could contribute to the problems as they might have faulty wiring and it is best not to take the chance in that situation.
 




On a side note: When was the last time you tested your GFCI outlets in and around city buildings? They should be tested monthly to ensure they are functioning.


By: Paul Gladen

 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Is Infrared Thermography Part of your Preventative Maintenance Program?


   Does your city have an IR or infrared electrical survey program as part of your preventative or predictive maintenance program? Better yet, has your city had an electrical survey done at your building in the past 10 years? How about ever? Most facilities have never had an infrared inspection.  According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2011 there were 47,700 structural fires in the U.S. which were caused by some sort of electrical malfunction. Those fires resulted in 418 deaths, 1,570 injuries, and $1.4 billion in property damage.


   Effective use of Infrared thermography surveys of the electrical systems in buildings can detect maintenance issues such as loose connections, overheating circuits and motors, as well as other electrical problems which if left uncorrected could lead to overheating of circuits and components resulting in a fire. At the very least it could cause an electrical short or equipment failure which can lead to downtime and larger maintenance and repair costs.

  
   IR inspections can also be useful in the detection of water intrusion issues, building insulation problems, heat and air loss, and HVAC problems. In mechanical equipment, IR testing can detect over heating bearings, motors, pumps, and switches, as well as problems with the aforementioned electrical connections, components and lines. Some cities have already started to use Infrared thermography as part of the overall preventative maintenance program for their buildings and equipment resulting in reduced overall maintenance costs, as well as a decline in the number of large losses.

   A study by the Federal Energy Management Program estimates that preventative maintenance can save 30%-40% over reactive maintenance. On the other hand, in the event of a catastrophic breakdown or fire, the savings of an effective preventative maintenance program would be much higher when you look at overall added labor, overtime, replacement costs, and downtime cost associated with a large loss.

   If your city decides to incorporate thermography inspections into your preventative maintenance program you will want to have an effective, documented program with established written inspection procedures for measurement and collection, and interpretation of data. You will want to follow the same steps each time to ensure consistent measurements and accurate data points for comparison of readings. Also, you will want to follow any and all safety precautions and procedures where necessary to ensure the inspections are done safely, and don’t subject the person conducting the inspection to unsafe conditions. The inspection program should outline and ensure everyone follows safety procedures and uses appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary. If hiring an outside service to provide the inspection you want to make sure they follow the above procedures to ensure accurate data and effective results.



By: Paul Gladen, Loss Control Consultant






Friday, February 19, 2016

Stay Visible and Stay Safe

Many of the job tasks LMCIT member employees work on daily involve working in the street right-of-way. This may include pothole filling, crack filling, water main break repair, sewer line maintenance, tree trimming, and the list goes on and on. Working in the street right-of-way requires high-visibility garments like vests, and temporary traffic control devices such as barricades and cones.


Q: Who is required to wear high-visibility clothing?
A: Each employee exposed to or working adjacent to moving motor vehicles as part of the employee’s assigned job shall be provided with and required to wear a high-visibility warning vest or other high-visibility garment, as required by Minnesota Rules 5207.0100. A high-visibility garment is defined as being a Performance Class 2 garment or greater as specified by the American National Standards Institute and International Safety Equipment Association in ANSI/ISEA Standard 107-2004.



Q: When is temporary traffic control needed?
A: Any public or private agency performing work within the right-of-way of streets or highways open to public travel is responsible for supplying, installing, and maintaining all necessary traffic control devices. The specifics are outlined in the Temporary Traffic Control Zone Layouts Field Manual, which is a section of the Minnesota Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.



Q: Where can employees learn how to set up temporary traffic control?
A: The Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program (MNLTAP) conducts training throughout the state in late winter each year and also offers an online tutorial.
The live training is called “Work-Zone Safety, Temporary Traffic Control, and Flagging.” In this four-hour comprehensive workshop, attendees will learn key elements required for temporary traffic control, safety, and flagging.

The online tutorial, called “Orientation to Work Zone Safety”, addresses many of the hazards inherent in road and street work and how these dangers can be minimized to keep motorists, pedestrians, and employees safe.

 



By: Joe Ingebrand, CSP, LMCIT Senior Loss Control Consultant





Friday, February 12, 2016

Baby, It’s Cold Out There!


We live in Minnesota and the fact is that our winters are cold.  Those of us that work outdoors need to pay attention to the cold at a greater level than your average person as we may be exposed to cold stress.  When working outdoors in extreme temperatures for extended periods of time, we need to pay attention to our body and potential systems, as well as our co-worker’s.  Extremely cold or wet weather can cause hypothermia or frostbite at a much more rapid pace than we would expect.

 
Hypothermia is when the body uses up its stored energy and can no longer produce heat.  This condition often occurs after prolonged exposure to cold temperatures.  Being aware of the symptoms is necessary when working outdoors during our Minnesota winters. 
 
Early Symptoms:
·         Shivering
·         Fatigue
·         Loss of Coordination
·         Confusion and disorientation

Late Symptoms:
·         No shivering
·         Blue skin
·         Dilated pupils
·         Slowed pulse and breathing
·         Loss of consciousness

First Aid Steps:
·         Request IMMEDIATE medical assistance
·         Move the victim to a warm room, shelter, or vehicle
·         Remove wet clothing
·         Warm the center of the body first –chest, neck, head, and groin – using an electric blanket or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, or towels
·         If conscious, warm beverages may help increase the body temperature - Do not give alcohol
·         If no pulse, begin CPR
 
 
Frostbite is an injury that is caused by freezing.  Frostbite most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes.  Again, being aware of the symptoms can save you from permanent injury to your body. 
 
Symptoms:
·         Reduced blood flow to hands and feet
·         Numbness
·         Aching
·         Tingling or stinging
·         Bluish or pale, waxy skin

First Aid Steps:
·         Get into a warm room, shelter, or vehicle immediately
·         Unless necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes
·         Immerse the affected area(s) in warm (not hot) water, or warm the affected area with body heat.  Do not use a heating pad, fireplace, or radiator for warmth as your sense of heat will be impacted leading to potential for burning.
·         Do not massage the frostbitten area; doing so can cause more damage

Prevention:
·         Monitor your physical condition and that of your co-workers
·         Wear appropriate clothing
o   Wear several layers of loose clothing for insulation; tight clothing reduces blood circulation to the extremities
·         Be aware that some clothing may restrict your movement and result in a hazardous situation
·         Protect the ears, face, hands and feet in extremely cold or wet weather
o   Boots should be waterproof and insulated
o   Wear a hat to reduce the loss of body heat from your head
·         Move into warm locations for breaks; limit the amount of time outside
·         Carry extra socks, gloves, hats, jacket, blankets, change of clothes and thermos of hot liquid
·         Include chemical hot packs in your first aid kits
·         Avoid touching cold metal surfaces with bare skin.
 
While this all may be information you have known since grade school, it is an important reminder that we do not become immune to these conditions as we age. 
 

By: Tara A. Bursey

Friday, February 5, 2016

MN LTAP: Work-Zone Traffic Control Seminars


Improving safety while working next to vehicle traffic requires specific attention. The objectives regarding temporary traffic control zones are first to create a safe work zone for city workers, and second to safely direct traffic.







This seminar provides an overview of basic traffic control procedures for work zones. The latest in traffic control devices and safety devices are presented, including several unique approaches to traffic control and methods for reducing risk and liability.

DATES & LOCATIONS

The workshop is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon at the specified locations on the dates listed below.

• February 18, 2016—City Center Hotel, 101 Main Street, Mankato, MN
• February 23, 2016—Ramada Inn, 1517 16th St. SW, Rochester, MN
• February 25, 2016—Holiday Inn, 75 S. 37th Ave., St. Cloud, MN
• March 3, 2016—DoubleTree Hotel, 2200 Freeway Blvd., Brooklyn Center, MN
• March 10, 2016—Holiday Inn, 20800 Kenrick Ave., Lakeville, MN
• March 29, 2016—Radisson Hotel, 505 West Superior St., Duluth, MN