A Simple Human Responsibility - And Response

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The nearer you get, the closer we’ll be...continued straddling of the reopening fence, but only after wiping it down with bleach.

Health and safety rule number one: assess your environment to identify potential exposures to hazards which could reasonably cause serious injury, illness or death.

Other rule number one: all politics is political.

Since we last talked, half of us have concluded that everything is pretty much fine and there’s nothing to worry about. The second half of our human friends have determined that a viral ghost for which there exists no safe and effective therapeutic or vaccine is causing serious injury, illness and death. The third half of the planet is scratching its collective head and waiting to see which of the other two halves picked the correct lottery numbers.

So while we either take a stubborn position or wait it out, what should we be doing?

The answer is easy, although compliance may be difficult. Just refer to rules number one and number one above.

It is undeniable that innocent souls around the world have become seriously ill and they have either recovered or died. We still don’t know how many of our human neighbors have become ill and recovered. We do have at least a low end estimate of deaths, and it is in the millions, worldwide.

The ghost abides.

So pick your poison. Go out and live your life as if it were last January. Or, stay home and wait for the all clear signal. Or, go out when it is absolutely necessary and otherwise quarantine.

It doesn’t matter which of these paths you choose. All three options carry with them a simple human responsibility. Acknowledge the hazard, and at least take the reasonably simple steps that our best experts (separate from politicians) have suggested; and give your fellow humans-your parents, your peers, your children and your grandchildren- a chance to hear the all clear signal when it sounds —with their own living, human ears.

Michael Mallen
Health, safety and environmental attorney

* * *

This piece reminds me of a conversation I had a few weeks ago with a classmate from college.  I’d gone to work for him just after I graduated in 1978. He was skipper on an 85’ crewboat out of Galveston, Texas. We worked together on that boat and another vessel he captained, a 165’ supply vessel. I worked with him for almost two years.

When we worked the Gulf of Mexico, storm season would come and we’d dread the potential. Drilling and production rigs only evacuated if danger was really high and most times the crew rode out storms with one of our boats standing by. I’m not sure what the reason was to stand by, I never had to do it, but I knew lowering people to a boat via crane was tedious in over 50 knots of wind and 12’ seas, much less a full gale. After a certain point, it was pointless to try, the danger of loss of life was far higher than getting to go to town.

Finally in the mid 1980’s insurance underwriters put a stop to oil and drilling companies putting the lives of their personnel in harms way.  The change was simple, offshore structures discharged all but the bare minimum to keep rigs intact and everyone got off.

My friend rode out Katrina in a 125’ offshore tug, he was headed for Tampa from Houston and made a stop at a shipyard in Pascaguala, Ms. Saturday morning before the storm made landfall, they left for  offshore. He went south and then west off the mouth of the river and got about 100 miles south of Venice when he put the engines in clutch and made about 4 knots down sea in 40-50 foot seas. His barge they’d lost tow of, the hawser was 2 1/4” stainless cable and it parted. After Katrina passed they did a dead reckoning search for the barge, got it, made tow and went on to Tampa. Two of his crew walked off in Tampa.

My point to all this is I was comfortable here in Tennessee when all that happened well south of us. A  fair number of folks were not. For now, with the current situation, underwriters have not had their say. When they do, many venues will be forever changed, the cost of insuring will make events a non starter or well thought out. Time will tell.

Prentice Hicks
Lookout Valley, Tn


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