Chapter Corner

Preparation: The Key to Safety

Posted in: Editor's Column, May/June 2013

Looking at the size of the tornado on the television, I immediately began to worry for everyone in the tornado’s path, including my sister, brother-in-law, and their two young sons. Cell phone towers were already affected so I was unable to call; I had to rely on text messages for updates.

Juliet and her husband heard the warning sirens and were in the bathtub with a mattress on top of them. They were also in touch with their children’s school through emails. All of the students had been relocated to a safe-room that is reinforced with steel and concrete. This massive room includes toys for the children and televisions to watch movies to keep the students calm. The teachers receive constant communication and wait for the “all clear” message before re-opening the doors of the safe-room. They were so well trained that my nephews were unaware of the danger that was around them.

Luckily, the tornado did not directly hit my sister’s home or my nephews’ school. However, everyone had a plan in case they were impacted. Oklahomans are well-prepared for a possible tornado and aware of safety protocols. When the sirens sounded, their reactions were instinctive due to practice, preparation, and past experience. There have been many heroic stories of survival and selflessness during and after the tornado.

Workers can learn from the brave people of Oklahoma. We all wish that accidents were non-existent and every jobsite was absent of injuries but that is simply not true. Even the safest and most cautious workplaces in the world are susceptible to accidents – oftentimes it is the reaction to the incident that determines the severity. If a worker has been properly trained when that inevitable situation arises, they will know how to respond to limit the damage and/or risk of injury. If the safety training was at the highest level, the reactions during an incident will be instinctive.

The tornado claimed the lives of 24 people, including a recent graduate of IEC of Oklahoma City. The impact on this region is incomprehensible.  However, when you see the 17-mile stretch of damage that this tornado caused, it is amazing that the devastation was not more severe.  Much of it is a credit to the knowledge of the local citizens and their quick response to stay safe. We all can learn from them and prepare ourselves for any potential disasters that could occur in our area or at our workplace. Safety is more than a requirement for a job; it is a necessity that can protect us in our time of need.

Although the tornado left Oklahoma a few weeks ago, the re-building process has just begun. I am incredibly proud of my fellow IEC National Staff members who immediately gathered together and sent five boxes of supplies (including water, Gatorade, cleaning supplies, and toiletries) to IEC-OKC for them to distribute in the community.  You can still donate to the American Red Cross, Oklahoma Disaster Fund, Oklahoma Food Bank, or a charity of your choice.