From Where I Sit: My column in Voices of Central Pennsylvania, November 2010
My only experience with an earthquake was in the Silicon Valley of California. I was staring at my broken computer when the earth moved beneath me. The following day The San Jose Mercury News put the earthquake on page one because of its intensity and also contained an editorial on the importance of being prepared.
My home (wife, two daughters, two cats) was back in North Carolina. There I had worked in Research Triangle Park for two years (focusing on linking a computer to a telephone switch) had disappeared. Without warning jobs in documentation had become the moral equivalent of famine where two years previously had been feast. [At a Northern Telecom job interview I had been told being a technical writer had secured me a guaranteed income for life (gold watch and all)] .
At the same time as my gold watch turned into costume jewelry, my ability to walk disappeared. I had gone from being able to jog on the beautifully wooded track on the corporate campus, to being unable to stand without holding onto something, to tripping on my toes and dislocating my right shoulder.
After my third fall, directly in front of my prospective boss’ feet, Vicki, who was in charge of the corporate quality assurance team, said, “Don’t worry. We have to hire you.” The reason I had to be hired was that the company, a global leader in computer wafer inspection devices, needed a writer for its new product which could predict when a wafer in the production process would be faulty and remove it from its production line on a timely basis. What the company had not prepared for was any safety orientation for disabled workers.
R e g a r d i n g safety at Addison Court, a residence for 90 elderly and disabled individuals, where as a result of faulty fire alarms about two years ago, we learned from Steve Bair, fire director of Centre County’s Council of Governments (COG) and head of Alpha Fire Company, the proper way of evacuating a building made of brick with adequate sprinklers:
Do not evacuate. Wait for the fire company to come. Evacuation of disabled and elderly residents (in a multi-story building), especially when they have power chairs, wheel chairs, and the like, can induce panic.
The most recent available Census Department statistics for Centre County (based on a 2006-2008 estimate) shows a total population of a little more than 144,000; 45,000 residents are 45 years old and older. Nearly 16,000 residents range in age from 65 years to over 85. What is the cost to Centre County and society at large to keeping these 16,000 residents safe and productive if many of them require special safety procedures? Who should pick up the tab? IWe need to invest in quieter, gentler fire alarms so that residents stay in place until the fire trucks come.
Several subjects require elaboration on the voiceswepage.org webpage: direct your browser to future blogs on the following subects:
- Administrative efforts to reduce panic.
- The continuation of my meandering earthquake story and where it fits into a larger picture.
- Plans to make Lady Gaga Fire Prevention Celebrity for Centre County.
—Joel Solkoff, author of The Politics of Food. For a continuation of themes raised in this column, see Joel;s blog at voicesweb.org.Tell me how you liked the photograph of Lady Gaga and an illustrated critique of her disability-related video Paparazzi.