Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Importance of Being Earnest (not about the play) (08/04/11)
TITLE: Risk Assessment
By Loretta Leonard
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Another thunderous boom blasted through the air and heavy billows of smoke rose upwards blocking any vision of the area. Carl grabbed his hard hat, cell phone and emergency contact list. At the front door of the administration building, people were speculating on what had happened. “Move out of the way!”
“Carl, head towards building 14. That last crash shattered all the windows on the first two floors. We're trying to get everyone out of the building. The area's not safe.”
“Got it, Lance. I called the fire department, HAZMAT, and paramedics. I contacted the plant manager so he could be on site to view the damage I'm sure he'll have a lot of questions.” Carl jumped in his truck, shifted in reverse and then moved into first gear. It would be so easy to step on the gas and floor it but the speed limit was 20 miles per hour and he had to be cautious. Explosives were kept in more than one area and in some sections rocket motors were being tested. The slightest spark could set them off.
One glance at the building and it was obvious what needed to be done. “Block off the whole plant. Everyone needs to stay put until the area is safe.” Carl assessed the damage and noticed that debris was scattered everywhere. The flashing lights of the trucks along with the hum of the various engines were telltale signs of an emergency. Crime scene tape blocked off access to the building. It was going to be one long day and another night without sleep. Too many details had to be handled along with reporting the incident to the state regulatory agency. Carl would be lucky if he got home by 3:00 AM.
“Look, everyone, it's 7:00 PM and things look safe. Call the plant manager and have him notify everyone who is not actively engaged with the clean-up that it is safe to leave.” You could almost hear the collective sigh of the employees as they left the area for the day. At 10:00 PM the scene was quiet and all the clean-up crews rolled out the front plant entrance Carl placed a phone call to the required state agency and one last phone call at 1:00 AM to the plant manager. He sat down, reviewed the facts on the fire and then tried to remember where he had parked that morning.
Over the next few days things were a whirlwind of activity as the investigation unfolded. How did the incident begin? Was anyone injured? What were the legal issues concerning the incident? How much damage occurred? Did everyone in upper management get contacted and briefed about the damage either through email or via phone? A hundred questions rattled through Carl's head and he went into overdrive trying to get all the loose ends tidied up.
One lonely Saturday at work while trying to catch up on filling, Carl stopped. He thought long and hard about where he was going in life. He had dealt with five state agencies about regulations. He had kept governmental agencies apprised of all the environmental details they required. He had cleaned up chemical spills, analyzed polluted water, ran tests on contaminated soil and handled unannounced inspections. He had been on so many red-eye airplane flights that sometimes he didn't even know where he was. He was tired. He had never really considered where he was going; he just took things as they came.
He picked up the phone. “Hon, I got thinking about retirement. I know age 65 is what we planned for but maybe an early retirement would be better. Let's have lunch today and talk through things.” Life was too short to keep working in a frenzy.
Retirement. It always seemed to be out there in the distant future but now it was time to look at new options. No one could predict what would be ahead but Carl had persevered through many unknowns at work. Retirement may be an unknown but he would take it one step at a time.
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