If you count my time in uniform, I have worked in public safety for a while. I have also worked on business continuity/disaster recovery planning committees. I am probably more well read on much of the literature than many public safety officers and government officials. I take this sort of thing quite seriously, because I know what is possible. And so when I hear people blow things off, even when experts are trying to tell them to take a particular danger or threat seriously, I get a bit frustrated.
The looming storm this weekend is a great example.
I have already heard a great many people say things like “big deal, it’s going to snow in Boston, like that never happened before.” Well, the storm that is about to hit us may very well be without much historic precedent. It is possible, maybe even likely, that records will be broken and this storm will go down in history as one of those really bad Nor’Easters that people remember for decades, like the Blizzard of 1978. So this is not something to blow off. It is not outside the realm of possibility that things could go terribly wrong, at least for a few very unfortunate people.
Not long ago my best man and his partner were traveling in the South on an interstate, thinking they would beat the coming snow to their destination. They did not count on a tractor-trailer jackknifing across the highway, blocking it completely. How could they know? And so they were sitting in their car, waiting for the road to clear, when the snow started to come down.
They sat in their car for some five or six hours.
These things can and do happen. A few years ago something similar happened here in Boston, and people were stuck in their cars for many hours. Unlike the Blizzard of ’78, no one died, but there were plenty of people who were stuck in their cars for as much as eight hours. They were forced to urinate and defecate inside their own vehicles, something which I imagine is not fun for anyone. So these employers who force their employees to come to work anyway even when the weather is absolutely going to be awful, and then let them go home at the last minute thinking they will get there OK, should probably spend a little more time worrying about their employees’ safety. And they should think about the liability issues as well, if that helps them make the right decision. Because all it takes are a couple of unexpected things to eat up that little window of safety, and to put people in real danger. Any place that is open this afternoon should consider that, especially if they have employees who have to commute from far away. Because what some people may think of as a mere inconvenience can get dangerous in shockingly little time. I would imagine that no one wants to be known as a boss who made such a bad decision, especially if it results in the hospitalization or even death of an employee. No one thinks anything bad can happen to them. But I can assure you, it does.
Stay safe, everyone.