Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Dangers we all face on Holiday weekends

Holidays and Long Weekends

The dangers our country faces every time we take time off to celebrate?

Its time to turn off all the lights. Lock the doors and gates and take off for the long Holiday Weekend. Be it Memorial Day, Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Many places close up and enjoy the time off and places which must be staffed like Hospitals ,Police depts. TV Stations Etc . Are running with very limited staff and this is where the problems can begin.

Many businesses now rely on technology to warn if something goes wrong to notify on call personnel to problems and with such reliance on technology we are leaving our selves very vulnerable to not only things that can go wrong naturally like broken water pipes and accidental fires .But we leave our selves open to major criminal activity and possible terrorist attack.

Take for instance the local AM/FM radio station at one time some one had to be always on duty to make sure the station was running properly and to make sure any emergency weather or other messages where gotten out to the public. Today many stations are fully automated no one is on site and if you needed to get a emergency evacuation message out to the public due to a accidental release of dangerous chemicals you could not do it.

This even goes for many Low power TV stations which are fully automated and with so many people on MP 3- Ipods – XM /Sirrius radio etc. Cable TV or satellite dishes getting there attention is almost impossible.
Many communities in addition have shut off there fire depts. emergency sirens and dismantled them as well to. One possibility to get the message out is to have the local National Weather Service office send out a signal which activates emergency weather and disaster radios but many Responders do not know you can do this and not everyone has one of these radios. Even if your successful in getting the message to the weather service and they activate the emergency signal tones at the fully automated radio and TV stations your depending on the technology at the station to pick up the message and retransmit it ,some times it gets thru some times it does not as the recent nation wide test on November 14th proved .Even the manned stations have to have some one who is paying attention to retransmit as well and many times they can miss the signal if they are busy handling another problem, and a signal can be delayed for several minutes before it gets out.

But let’s talk about what caused the release of the dangerous chemicals’ in the first place.

Many company’s have eliminated there weekend Guard and maintenance staff and instead are relying on automation systems and alarms to take there place again some are installed properly and work well some do not and even if an alarm system picks up the signal getting the signal from the plant to the people who need to respond is another problem, since many plants to save money use internet based phone lines to get signals out and these phone lines unlike traditional phone lines are them selves very vulnerable to not working when needed becuse they must be powered from both ends unlike traditional phone lines.

So that simple power failure in your community has now turned into a disaster because everyone is trying to save a buck.

Of course having guards and maintenance staff in place is not a 100% guarantee there will not be problems but at least some one is on site to react and make sure proper people are contacted even if they have to get in a vehicle and drive down to where they can notify emergency personnel. That is if emergency personnel are at there stations. Many communities no longer staff there police/fire stations after 5pm and 911 centers handle all the emergency traffic. Many smaller communities do not have local police on after 5pm or weekends either leaving the emergencies up to state police and sheriff depts. that have very large territories to cover with 2-3 officers for an entire county. Some times only 1 officer available during a shift.

Then the other problems faced on holiday’s weekends is getting hold of people on the “on-call” call list especially on the weekend in Pa and other big hunting states have there opening of Buck Deer season where an entire work staff could be gone for the weekend and no reaching any one.

This is why weekends are so dangerous too many places in this country do not think out there emergency and back up plans and this is why we are seeing bigger problems as preventive and predictive maintenance programs are cut or abandoned.

Yes technology is a wonderful thing when it works but when it does not all hell can and does go wrong. It is not just weekends but any time after 5pm in this country.

Yes we all need a break to relax but before we do relax there needs to be some serious due diligence to make sure if things go wrong when we take off do not get out of hand.

If this article has made you uneasy it should because I am one of those people who are On-Call on the weekends and I get to see all the things that can and do go wrong.

I am very worried as more and more automation technology is being brought on line and there is no human interaction. Technology is a good thing but it can come back and bite when not handled properly.

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