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The Good Side of a Disaster

October 15th, 2010


It shouldn’t have to take a disaster to bring communities, agencies, and governments together. If there’s a good side to the Chilean mining disaster it’s that it brought together multiple groups and nationalities to save 33 trapped miners.  The Chilean mining disaster had a successful conclusion – all the miners returned alive. But, the causes of the disaster still need to be addressed, and dealt with.


While I couldn’t find what caused the actual mine collapse, I did find articles on why the miners were trapped so far underground. The 33 miners, trapped 2,300 feet below ground, climbed the emergency ladder inside a ventilation shaft, but only got 1/3 of the way to the top. The San Esteban Mining Company had never finished the emergency exit ladder, so the miners had no way to the surface.


Having an escape passage is good. Never finishing it, is short-sighted and, not very intelligent. A breach of the four degrees of safety. (See prior post Putting Safety First.)   


In addition, miner Mario Sepulveda remarked, “but when we got here, the energy was cut off and there was no ventilation.” Another unintentional safety breach, or willful neglect by Alejandro Bohn and Marcelo Kemeny, the owners of the San Esteban Mining Company?


President Sebastian Pinera vowed to overhaul labor safety regulations and bring to justice those responsible for the accident, whether they are part of the company or part of the government. A needed and necessary vow, but will it be followed up on? Time will tell.


Those performing the rescue Part of the operation following a disaster should be able to:

-  Size up the scope and requirements of the situation.

-  Identify resources as they become available.

-  Deploy those resources in a coordinated manner.

- Continue the size-up, assessment, and deployment process on an ongoing basis as more becomes known.


 Even under the scrutiny of the media and most of the world, the people in charge of rescuing the trapped miners did well. The following tasks:

- size up the scope and requirements of the situation;

- identify resources as they become available;

- deploy those resources in a coordinated manner;

- continue the size-up, assessment, and deployment process on an ongoing basis as more becomes known;

Were all performed by the rescue team with positive results.


Under the scrutiny of the media and most of the world, the people in charge of rescuing the trapped miners did a commendable job.


Despite the valiant efforts that returned them to the surface, the miners may still experience, in addition to their physical aches, pains, and light sensitivity; psychological & physiological symptoms, such as:

-  Irritability or anger. Denial. Loss of appetite.

-  Blaming others. Mood swings. Headaches, chest pain.

-  Isolation, withdrawal. Diarrhea, Stomach pain, nausea.

-  Fear of recurrence. Hyperactivity. Feeling stunned, numb, or overwhelmed.

-  Increase in alcohol or drug consumption. Feeling helpless.

-  Nightmares. Concentration and memory problems.

-  Inability to sleep. Sadness, depression, grief.

-  Fatigue, low energy.

So though the miners are back on the surface, they may still have a ways to go before everything in their lives returns to normal. But, thankfully, they will have the chance to recover.


But if safety regulations had been followed, the emergency exit ladder would have been finished, kept in good repair, and would have brought the miners to the surface with a minimum of trouble and hardship. Safety regulations should be kept up to date in accordance with technological advancements. And it goes without saying safety equipment and passages should be finished and maintained to keep them at 100% efficiency. The good part of this disaster is that people came together to save other human lives. The bad part is that it never should have happened in the first place. 




Mirror Image

September 21st, 2010

Have you noticed that many people who post on the Internet think everyone — likes the same things they do, want the same things they do, have the same desires, ideals, and prejudices they do?


They offer you a solution to a problem, an item to buy, or an event to attend, based solely on their experiences. The way they solved the problem, the information in the item they’re selling, or the material they’ve collected for their seminar, worked for them; so it must work for you also. So follow this list of instructions and the problem will dissolve, as if it never existed.


What these people don’t realize is — everyone is an individual, and therefore needs an individual solution to achieve the best results for them. They stand in front of a gathering of people (either real or virtual) and see only their own smiling face reflected back — perpetuating the idea their solution is the one and only one to work.


Studies have shown people learn from, and retain, information from different media in a dissimilar manner.  Some people may learn best from visual images, others from audio, and some by reading the specified material. When an information product is offered for free in one media and has a price associated with it in another media, it builds unnecessary walls and can often cost more than just a sale.


I don’t like video products on the Internet. The Internet has no idea how to present material to those of us who are visually challenged. In addition, video files are large — taking up too much space and too long to load and view. I prefer my information in a written manner where I can control the rate I access the item at.


There are pros and cons for every type of media. But, if a choice is given, more visitors will come away with a warm, fuzzy feeling from your site, and just may return.


So, step outside your comfort zone and try bringing in people with different ideas, opinions, and beliefs than yours. A little friendly discussion will get you thinking; challenge some of your unfounded beliefs, and may even inspire you. Try some different things, approach a problem from another angle, or do something you’d normally consider “crazy”. Inventions like the telephone, television and microwave were thought impossibilities at one time. Stop copying and start thinking.   


Putting Safety First

September 16th, 2010



The oil well in the gulf has been plugged and soon BP will be leaving the area. The question is: “Have we learned anything from this?” and an even bigger question looms: “Will anything be done so it never happens again?”


Having a background in engineering, I was flabbergasted to learn not only didn’t BP have a working shut-off valve, but no back-up system –heck not even a back-up plan.


Long ago in another lifetime, while I was in college, I attended a talk given by someone from NASA. I don’t remember his name nor which department he was from — it was over 30 years ago, but the main idea of the talk stayed with me.


Any system operating in a non-normal environment should contain four degrees of safety (4DOS).


First, let me define “non-normal environment”. Any environment where the atmosphere and/or pressure (or gravity) deviates significantly from surface earth normal. This includes space, where there is no oxygen to breathe and the gravitational force is much less. Similarly under the ocean there is no breatheable air and the pressure is greater.


So, machinery and procedures in this under sea environment should follow the four Degrees of Safety.


What are these degrees?


I’m glad you asked. They are to have 1) a primary system built to withstand extremes of the environment with a worked in safety margin, 2) a working back-up system to this primary system that goes through periodic maintenance checks, 3) a secondary system that can perform the same duties of the primary and can be used if anything “fatal” happens to the primary system, and 4) a working back-up system to the secondary system that undergoes periodic maintenance checks. The secondary systems should be able to disengage the primary system and take over full operation if necessary.


Granted, this design was suggested for enclosed environments on planets other than earth. But these days equipment and procedures developed to solve one problem have often been used for the benefit of others. For instance, my computer “talks” to me as I’m visually challenged. The speech software has been used to teach those with learning disabilities to both learn to read and to increase their reading speed. Drugs developed for treatment of one disease or condition have been used to treat others. The list of other devices or substances providing dual or multiple duties is not short.


I’d like to propose the degree of safety be determined by the extent of damage able to be caused by the malfunction of a system; the extent it can impact either human life, other life, or the environment; and the measures necessary to “clean up” the malfunction.


From the above criteria, BP should have employed the full four degrees of safety. BP’s desire to maximize profits and not employ an adequate safety system have negatively affected the environment; animal life of the seas, land, and skies; and human life and livelihoods (in this case the ability to adequately provide for families and communities).


As Earth is the only home world we have, making any system that either produces substances affecting human or animal life negatively, or can be detrimental to the environment should employ some facet of this 4DOS system.


Not all systems will have to employ all four Degrees of Safety, but all should be inspected in a periodic manner, repaired and kept in optimum running condition, and replaced when a more effective/ efficient system comes along.  This is the ideal condition, and will probably not be the norm. Manufacturers of chemicals, fertilizers, and other man-made components; power plants, including nuclear;  hospitals and other institutions using pharmaceuticals; and other industries that produce industrial waste should be included. One would hope that many of these facilities already employ such safeguards, but I wouldn’t count on it. Am I dreaming? I hope not, but dreams are free. The cost of cleaning up another mess like the oil spill in the Gulf is not.    






June 14th, 2010

This is one of three blogs which I hope to soon interconnect. This one, the “main” blog, will be concerned with general items, but will focus on accessibility (or lack thereof) of blogs, electronic media, and the Internet in general.                       

My name is Barbara and I’ve been totally blind for over 20 years now. During that time, I’ve: raised two children, help to raise three step-children, and am now helping spoil four grandchildren. Before going blind from a head injury, I received a BS in electrical engineering from a state university and worked for several years in the semi-conductor industry. For the past five years or so, I’ve been writing fiction, taking Internet courses on writing, and have had some short stories published. My current genre is Urban Fantasy and I’m working on a novel length work. (If interested go to The other blog I have is, and is concerned with living life to its fullest after turning 50. And if you’re not that old yet, come by anywayI plan on including recipes, exercises, and other informational stuff.