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Posts Tagged ‘safety’

Airline Security — Bah Humbug!

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Note: The facts of the following are true, but my opinions are my own. If you don’t believe it check the links at the bottom, they all go to legitimate newspapers. 


As a lifetime resident of the state of Massachusetts, the story about the dead man found in Milton MA really got to me. Especially when the facts of the matter came to light.

Massachusetts is known for being the place where “the shot heard round the world” happened. (This was the shot in Lexington, MA that began the Revolutionary War in America.) Now however, a new saying may take its place. Massachusetts may become known as the place where – “the man who fell to earth” happened. (Apologies to Walter Tevis, author of “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, and David Bowie, who played the lead in the movie.)


But back to our story. A young man, Delvonte Tisdale, was found dead in Milton, MA.  His death was at first considered a homicide. The officials stayed closed mouthed about the case, until recently when they announced the man from North Carolina had fallen from a landing airplane to end up dead on the ground in a suburban area.


Further investigation revealed he’d hidden in a wheel well in the airplane and had fallen out when the landing gear was extended for landing.


Now, a couple of things about taking a ride in an airplane wheel well. It’s cold, about 55 degrees below zero. And it’s in an unpressurized part of the airplane, so no air pressure and no oxygen. Not great accommodations for traveling, in my opinion.


But this raises some serious questions. First how the hell did he get into the wheel well in the first place? Did this sophomore in high school simply saunter out, walk under the plane and climb up into the wheel well? Under the eyes of all the airport personnel? 


How did he get access to the runway? Was he wearing an unused uniform of a maintenance worker? When found, reports said he was “partially clothed”. Were his clothes ripped off as he fell? Or did he not know of the cold and lack of air in the wheel well?  


And the big one. Where the hell was airline security while this young man was climbing into said airplane? Airline security is fine.  No one would do anything today; it’s too close to the holidays. Yeah, right. 


If this had been the first time, maybe, and I stress the maybe, it could be considered an unusual lapse in security. But it’s happened before. The first occurrence I could find happened on January 13, 2007.  On a Delta flight from Dakar, Senegal Africa to Atlanta GA. This victim though stayed in the wheel well and was found after the plane landed. No mention was made of why the wheel well was checked. Perhaps some trouble with the landing gear?


The second occurrence that came up on my search happened earlier this year on February 9th. On a Delta flight from New York to Tokyo. Again the man’s body stayed in the wheel well. 


So, this wasn’t the first occurrence of this type of travelling mode. And the incidents were three years apart. The question still remains, why did it happen again? Why weren’t changes made to security regulations to insure no unauthorized person has access to the runways? To the baggage being put on the airplane? To anywhere around the plane as it sits on the runway waiting for takeoff?


The big question remains – how did they get in the wheel well in the first place? Consider a Suicide Bomber who wants to take down an airplane. He can tape the bomb to his body, get into the wheel well, and set a detonator to go off at a prescribed time. Sure he’ll die, but he was prepared to do that anyway. As long as the detonator and bomb materials don’t mind the cold, the bomb will explode.


And this concern has been raised. But what’s being done about it? No one will say anything concrete.  I seem to remember before the 911 disaster, the terrorists tried several “dry runs”. What if these are dry runs too? And if not, could the terrorists use this method?


These three cases, as far as I can tell, have not included terrorists. The first may have been thinking to make a better life in America. Maybe the second one wanted to get out of the United States. And the third one was a high school student, probably thinking himself invulnerable, trying to prove it could be done. But we can’t ask any of them – they’re all dead.  And, it doesn’t excuse the fact it’s happened three times too many.


So, all you in airline security get your act together. Learn to think outside the box. Stop this from happening again, and consider other methods terrorists could use. You’re the experts, prove it.










Strike Three for BP?

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010


BP has been responsible for at least two major disasters involving oil and North America. First, on MARCH 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez tanker, skippered by Captain Joe Hazelwood, ran aground on Bligh Reef, spilling more than 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound.


Then in April of 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused by a wellhead blowout spewed at least 4,200,000 US gallons per day over an Area of 2,500 to 68,000 square miles. It’s been called the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.


That’s two strikes. Is BP headed for strike three?


In college I took an electronics lab. We joked about creating an “anticipation” gate; one that knew the result before the inputs had been given. I don’t want to jump into the race before the starting whistle, but BP has shown what it thinks of maintenance, preventative or otherwise. So, where’s the light of the anticipation gate going to come on?


Somewhere on the Alaskan pipeline of course. Reports have been surfacing recently about the horrendous leaks, lack of regular maintenance, and BP’s continued usage of a pipeline designed to last only for 15 years; it was built in the 1970’s. But when the line continued to be profitable its use was continued for several more decades. Was maintenance stepped up for this antiquated system? Were newer and more efficient warning systems put in place in case of failure? By BP? Surely you jest. Profit is king here, not personnel or the environment.


According to workers, high pressure gas lines aren’t inspected frequently enough and are being “run to failure,” risking a leak and a major explosion. A document, obtained by ProPublica, shows that as of Oct. 1, 2010 at least 148 BP pipelines on Alaska’s North Slope received an “F-rank” from the company. From the company itself! Inspections have determined that more than 80 percent of the pipe wall is corroded and could rupture, releasing toxic or flammable substances. In addition, the company’s fire- and gas-warning systems are unreliable, the giant turbines that pump oil and gas through the system are aging, and some oil and waste holding tanks are on the verge of collapse. Typical BP?


In an e-mail, BP Alaska spokesman Steve Rinehart said the company has “an aggressive and comprehensive pipeline inspection and maintenance program,” which includes pouring millions of dollars into the system and regularly testing for safety, reliability and corrosion. He said that while an F-rank is serious it does not necessarily mean there is a current safety risk and that the company will immediately reduce the operating pressure in worrisome lines until it completes repairs.


Reduce the pressure, not stop the flow and do the needed maintenance?


Kovac, a BP mechanic and welder, said some of the pipes have hundreds of patches on them and that BP’s efforts to rehabilitate the lines were not funded well enough to keep up with their rate of decline.


“They’re going to run this out as far as they can without leaving one dollar on the table when they leave,” Kovac claims.

In 2010, before the enormous costs of the Gulf spill created an estimated $30 billion in BP liabilities, the company eked out more “efficiencies” in its Alaska budget. It said it would maintain record high funding for new projects and major repairs while reducing its budget for regular maintenance, according to a letter that BP Alaska President John Minge sent to Congress in February 2010. The letter said holding-tank inspections will be deferred and replacement of one pipeline will be postponed; flows through that line will be reduced “to mitigate erosion.”


So, not only is preventive maintenance something BP only gives lip service to, but they also have either not done or are ignoring failure analysis reports.


A failure analysis report should have been done on the pipelines, holding tanks, and all warning systems. These reports give the standard period between maintenance inspections and repairs, and also give the rate of failure over time. So, BP knew at the beginning when the pipes, turbines, holding tanks, and warning systems would begin to fail. Replacement of any and all parts should have begun well before the anticipated failure time. But the pipeline has been running for over 15 years longer than it was designed for. Can anyone say catastrophic environmental disaster?


So, there are some of the facts about the vaulted Alaskan Pipeline. In my opinion, it’s an accident (or disaster) waiting to happen. Will we wait until after the catastrophe to react? Probably. Should we? No.


And this doesn’t take into account minor spillage in the past. Other ruptures have occurred, but weren’t “big” enough to gather much notice. But newspaper articles in 2000, 2004, and 2006 reported these spills. So, maybe in essence, BP has already gotten its third strike.  


Here in the United States we have the “Three Strikes” law. It states if you are brought to court for breaking the law, the third time you go to jail — do not pass go, do not collect your stock dividends, just get acquainted with a nice, dark cell. If the disaster I’ve contemplated above happens, will this happen to anyone at BP?


Of course not. Big business will prevail. BP may hang out someone else to twist in the wind, but as a whole they will accept no responsibility for the lives they’ve ruined, the environment they’ve spoiled, or the corruption they’ve allowed to control their motives.


Should BP be held responsible for the clean-up of a rupture in the pipeline? Of course. Should they be required to clean up after themselves? Of course. Will they continue to ignore any laws they think hinder their God given right to make a profit at any expense. (Drum roll.) Of course.


Is there a solution to this problem? Yes, but’s it’s a long process, will include changes many people (mostly greedy business people) will fight tooth and nail against, and will cause many short term problems.


Over the next months, I’m going to start two series: “The Bottom Line”, and “Simplify”. The first will address how we Americans) need to define where and what we stand for. The second will address things we all can do to simplify our lives. Materialism, corruption, and the breakdown of social traditions and customs are leading us to the edge of the void. I, for one, don’t want to go there. Do you?   








The Good Side of a Disaster

Friday, 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.