The EL Faro disaster and lessons learned

In the April 2018 edition of Vanity Fair, there is an excellent article by William Langewiesche called “THE CLOCK IS TICKING”: INSIDE THE WORST U.S. MARITIME DISASTER IN DECADES.  It is the best article I have yet read about the loss of the SS El Faro on October 1, 2015, after the ship sailed into Hurricane Joaquin.  It was the worst American loss at sea since the 1983 sinking of the SS Marine Electric, which I wrote about here.  Thirty-three people died, including 8 crew members from New England and five Polish shipyard workers.

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An identifying video still from the US Navy showing the stern of the El Faro after the wreck was found some three miles underwater.

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A gentle reminder that this is New England in winter

Although we are WAY under our usual quota for snow so far this season, winter has decided to let us know that it is still here, and that all those warnings from the Starks were not for nothing.

This morning when I got up, the temperature according to the little weather tool on the kitchen computer was -3 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind chill was somewhere between -20 and -25 degrees, depending on just how hard the wind was blowing.  It would be white walker weather, except for the lack of snow.

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Poverty and the polar vortex

Today I read two very different but still related stories about things that happened in Hammond, Indiana due to the polar vortex.  Both stories emphasize the plight of the working poor in the United States, and how extreme cold affects them in ways that many people may not have even considered.

The first was about a house fire that claimed the lives of three small children and put two others and their father in the hospital.  The second was about a warehouse where workers were forced to continue working – without heat – even after the state had declared an emergency.

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“That won’t happen.” Well, sometimes it does.

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.

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Firearm safety and assumptions

In my life I have spent a fair amount of time around firearms of one type or another.  I have learned how to safely handle them from a fairly young age, and won my first shooting trophy when I was nine.  I still own several.  I have hunted deer and done various kinds of target shooting.  I am not a “gun nut” in that I have fetishized my firearms the way so many American men have.  I do not feel the need to carry everywhere, and I would never, ever call one of my firearms a “toy”.  I think I have a healthy amount of fear and respect for firearms in general.  And that is why when I see stories like this I am just astounded.  And angry.

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