Did you know that since the days of the bucket brigade and the horse-drawn fire wagons a whole industry has developed to make sophisticated equipment to detect and fight fires? We’ve come a long way since the Chicago fire of 1878, considered the greatest disaster of the 19th century.
Here’s what happened. After a long dry spell, high winds fanned a small fire into a raging inferno that caught the city of Chicago completely by surprise.
The city had only 200 firefighters, 17 fire engines and 18 ladder trucks. With this equipment, they had to protect 651 miles of wooden sidewalks and 60,000 buildings, most of which were wood as well. It was a huge task.
The fire soon raged out of control, rampaging across a city of 350,000 terrified residents. The 34-hour calamity took the lives of 250 people, destroyed 18,000 buildings and left 90,000 people homeless.
Incredibly, that very same day, a massive forest fire roared out of control in eastern Wisconsin, wiping out the town of Peshtigo. Some 1,500 residents died and 4 million acres of prairie land were destroyed.
These and other tragic fires led to new products, new building codes and a new industry dedicated to detection and prevention.
Today we have sophisticated systems with heat sensors, smoke detectors, voice evacuation systems and other devices to protect hotels, office towers and other buildings. Specially designed fire suppression systems have halon gas to extinguish fires without damaging vulnerable computer centers, telephone switching equipment and other sensitive devices.
But this technology doesn’t mean we can let down our guard. We still need to rely on one of the best fire prevention systems ever-alert workers who look for and report fire hazards. Always remember to…
*Practice good housekeeping and store flammable materials a safe distance from heating equipment or electrical units.
*Inspect and maintain electrical equipment properly.
*Take care in handling flammable material.
*Eliminate careless smoking, oily rags, static electricity, grease, and other substances that can cause fires.
To prevent fires, you need to make sure your work area is clear of hazards. Any fire can easily lead to a tragedy and any activity that is a fire risk requires special precautions. Be aware of the dangers around you, report anything you think could lead to a fire and remember attention is prevention.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT FIRE PREVENTION?
*Copyright 2006 Harkins Safety B219
Can you think of a reason why anybody would want to parachute right into the middle of a raging forest fire? Most of us couldn’t.
But for the brave men and women, who work as smokejumpers, skydiving into forest fires is their job-and what’s more, they can’t wait for their next call!
It’s true. Highly trained and experienced, smokejumpers parachute into forest fires as self-sufficient firefighters who can arrive on the scene to provide a quick initial attack on the fire in rugged terrain. Fire-fighting tools, food and water are also dropped by parachute, allowing the smokejumpers to fight fires on their own for up to 48 hours at a stretch.
The smokejumper program began in 1939 as an experiment in the Pacific Northwest and the first fire jump took place in Idaho’s Nez Perce National Forest in 1940. The first woman in the program completed her training in 1981.
Smokejumpers travel all over the country to fight fires and more than 270 smokejumpers work from Forest Service bases located in Idaho, California, Montana, Washington and Oregon.
As you can imagine, smokejumping is extremely hazardous. These highly trained professional must be in tip-top physical condition and must be experts in the specialized field of woodland firefighting.
While the demands on us aren’t as great as those for a smokejumper, we need to take fire every bit as seriously as they do. It’s vital that we always stay alert to possible fire-starters, such as solvents, electricity, mechanical equipment and even clutter in our work areas. And if a fire should occur, make sure you know the right action to take, including the location and proper use of fire extinguishers.
Despite their experience, smokejumpers never let up on their training. They constantly practice the basics, such as aircraft exiting procedures, parachute maneuvering, parachute- landing rolls, cargo retrieval and tree climbing. Some training sites even have virtual training simulators for real-life on the ground practice.
We shouldn’t let up on our training either. A hazard that’s overlooked due to inattention or a fire that rages out of control because someone didn’t take the time to learn the proper procedure can have devastating consequences-including the worst consequences of all, loss of life. Instead, when it comes to fire, we must always stay alert and stay informed to stay safe.
STOP FIRE BEFORE IT STARTS…PREVENTION IS THE KEY
*Copyright 2008 Harkins Safety B234
Don’t Get Burned
House fires injure or kill thousands each year. If a house fire happens to you, it’s critical to know what to do and to act fast. Here’s some potentially life-saving information.
In a serious house fire, you may have as little as five minutes to escape and survive. A manufacturer of home safety products has done extensive research on what happens when a home catches on fire. Some of the findings may surprise you.
For example, you can’t count on the smell of smoke to wake you if you are asleep. In fact, toxic fumes from a fire are more likely to put you into an even deeper sleep. The family dog has a much more sensitive smell than humans, but even that warning system might not work. The truth is, there’s no substitute for a system of well- maintained smoke detectors throughout the house.
Fire inside a house tends to be black, not bright red or orange as it would be outdoors where the fire can get plenty of oxygen. This means it will be difficult to see when you’re trying to escape. Depending on the fire’s source of fuel, a house can become an inferno in a matter of minutes.
More than 35,000 people are killed or injured in house fires each year. Your chances of surviving are double if you have a smoke detector on every floor. If the alarm sounds, get out fast and call the fire department from a neighbor’s house. Whatever you do, don’t go back in. Many are killed when they go back into the house to retrieve treasured objects.
At home and at work, the best plan is to stop fires before they start. On the job, stay aware, look for and report any hazards that might cause a fire. Good housekeeping is essential too. Be sure to dispose of oily rags, paper or scraps of wood. Trash, sawdust or almost any collection of waste can be a dangerous source of fuel for a fire. Also, carefully check to make sure that flammables are safely stored away from ant heat source. Don’t put off regular inspections of smoke detectors, heating units, wiring and fire extinguishers. Make sure you know where the fire extinguishers are kept and how to use them. If you do, you can stop a small fire from turning into a major disaster.
True, a good warning system is important to guard against fire, but the best protection is prevention and that means no fire at all.
DON’T GET BURNED! FIGHT FIRE WITH PREVENTION
*Copyright Harkins Safety 2008 B249
It’s not only brilliant; but it’s also the subject of the most folklore beginning with the Ancient Greeks and continuing to this very day. Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, is also one of the closest stars to the sun-a mere 8.6 light-years away. It’s not just one star. Sirius is a binary star-two stars so close together that they look like one.
Apart from its astronomical qualities, though Sirius has long been the subject of myth and folklore. Sirius is called the Dog Star because it is the most vivid star in the constellation Canis Major, the Great Dog constellation. The Ancient Greeks believed that Sirius heralded the hot and dry summer-known as the Dog Days of summer.
Because of its intense radiance, the Ancient Greeks thought Sirius was sending out rays or “emanations” that caused people to act strangely. Those suffering from its effects were said to be “star struck.”
The Greeks of the island of Ceos offered sacrifices to Sirius to bring cooling breezes. They awaited the appearance of the star in the summer. If the star looked clear, they believed good fortune was coming. But if it looked misty of faint, they feared pestilence in their crops.
The Ancient Romans also honored Sirius. They celebrated its setting on April 25th with the sacrifice of a dog to the goddess Robigo so that the star’s rays would not harm the wheat crop.
Even today the star is still capturing our imaginations. Author J.K. Rowling, creator of the famed Harry Potter stories, gave Harry’s godfather the name Sirius and the animal form he changes into is a big black dog. Today of course astronomers and scientists see these legends as quaint artifacts from the past. We don’t deal in myths and superstitions. That’s especially true when it comes to safety on the job.
Safety professionals create specific rules and procedures to keep us out of harm’s way. It’s up to us to follow them and to take personal responsibility for staying alert on the job all day, every day. That’s how we create a culture of safety company wide that helps ensure the well-being of every worker. There’s nothing mysterious about it.
While the folklore of Sirius is fun to explore, when it comes to safety we’re all business. Serious about safety is just plain smart.
WE’RE SERIOUS ABOUT SAFETY ARE YOU?
*COPYRIGHT 2008 HARKINS SAFETY B250
He was a big Russian bear of a man, the greatest super heavyweight power lifter of all time who used equal measures of brawn and brain to set 80 world records and 81 Soviet records, and to win two Olympic gold medals. His name was Vasily Ivanovich Alekseyev.
Born in 1942 in the village of Pokroveo Shishkino, Russia. Alekseyev was the son of a lumberjack. At age 12, he began lifting logs for exercise and at 14 began wrestling the other lumberjacks for sport and winning.
At 19, already 6 feet tall and 198 pounds, he was introduced to weights and began lifting competitively. Nine years later, he burst into the limelight by setting four world records. He trained without a coach, devising his own strategy through trial and error. It made him a legend in lifting.
He was the first weightlifter to exceed 1,322 pounds for a three-lift total in the clean and jerk, snatch and clean and press. He was also the first to lift 500 pounds in the clean and jerk lift.
His Olympic debut at the Munich Games in 1972, Alekseyev won gold. He did so again at the Montreal Games in 1976.
“When I am ready to lift,” Alekeseyev once said ”I visualize the moment when my arms will lift straight into the air with the weight moving toward the sky.” Lifting on the job involves mind and body working together, too. Before you lift, think through the proper way to do it.
*Stretch gently beforehand to warm up.
*Lift or carry only what you can realistically handle.
*Lift with your legs not your back and never twist.
*Carry the load close to your body to reduce strain.
*Check with your safety supervisor for more tips.
Alekseyev reached many goals in his career bur one eluded him. 100 world records. He probably would have reached this goal too if the press, one of his best lifts, had not been eliminated from competition in 1972.
While your back may never need to endure a 500 pound power lift, it does work hard for you every day. Why not make it your goal to create a record of lifting safely? Being smart about back safety will keep your back healthy and pain free. Like Alekseyev, staying fit and lifting smart will ensure that you can stay active for years to come. Whether your event is golf, gardening or grandchildren, the way to win the gold is safety.
WHAT’S YOUR BACK DONE FOR YOU LATELY?
Keep It Healthy & Pain Free
*Copyright 2007 Harkins Safety (B212)
A Stunt With a Shark
You’ve heard it in conversation. You’ve probably even said it yourself—someone or something has “jumped the shark.” It’s a common expression, but where did it come from? It’s a fascinating story.
It all began, strangely enough with the popular TV show Happy Days. The show’s first episode aired in January 1974 and the series ran for a full ten years.
Happy Days was pure Americana as it told the story of Midwestern teenager Richie Cunningham, his family and his friends, Potsie Weber and Ralph Malph. But the character who really stood out was Arthur Fonzarelli-The Fonz. Wearing his trademark black leather jacket, the good natured greaser befriends Richie and becomes a friend of the family.
The fateful episode came in the fifth season. In it, the Cunninghams take a vacation to Hollywood with The Fonz. While there, Fonzi accepts a dare to don a pair of water skis and jump over a tank filled with man-eating sharks-while wearing a swimsuit and his black leather jacket of course.
The episode was so contrived and the special effects depicting Fonzie’s jump were so poorly done that it became the low-water mark of the series. As a result, the expression “jump the shark” has come to describe the point at which a sense of routine has set in and quality has begun to decline.
As the now infamous episode shows, complacency can turn up in unexpected places. But when it happens on the job, the consequences are anything but entertaining.
Complacency happens when you think you have all the job experience you need and know all the hazards just because you’ve done a task many times before without getting hurt. That’s dangerous thinking and it leaves you open to injury.
It’s vital to approach every task, no matter how familiar with fresh eyes. Stop and think before you start. Double check the safety procedures. Consider all the possible hazards. As you work, keep your awareness sharp at all times.
After Happy Days jumped the shark, it went on for another five years in decline. But we can’t afford to be in decline on the job. We can’t afford to be complacent, not even for one day, not even in one task. There’s too much at stake—your livelihood, your health, your safety, not to mention your self-respect as a pro. Don’t let your job experience lull you into complacency. Better to bring all your experience to bear on staying safe.
HAZARDS LURK IN COMPLACENT WORK
Stay Alert-Make Caution Your Routine
*Copyright 2011 Harkins Safety (B278)