A few nights ago I wandered out to my truck to collect a case of drinks that I’d left in there. I had to park a bit further from our apartment than usual so I was sort of shuffling along, paying attention primarily to my thoughts and the dim concrete for fear of tripping over a curb or something. Suddenly I heard a terrific boom, which echoed noticeably across the field adjacent to our apartment complex. My initial thought was that a car had just hit a building, somewhere up ahead. With our apartment behind me, I didn’t have much concern other than the generic thought that I hadn’t noticed any squealing tires so whomever had just hit something didn’t seem to have bothered to brake.
I wandered back to the apartment and Nik greeted me with information that the sound had actually shook our apartment. That didn’t sound like the result of a car hitting a building some ways off. Then the sirens began. They seemed to be coming right to us, but they then trailed off as they passed, presumably somewhere down the street toward downtown. Having been up at that point for almost 30 hours in a row, I decided it was my cue to retire for the evening.
Nik, on the other hand, could not contain her curiosity and went to investigate. Upon doing so she quickly discovered that a building in our complex had caught fire following an explosion that was tentatively being attributed to a gas leak. The papers would later report that the explosion caused a three alarm fire that spread to a second unit and took over an hour and a half to contain.
The man whose apartment the explosion had originated from has, in the following days, been the topic of much speculation in the rumor mill of our apartment community. Some say he was trying to commit suicide, others say he was just the unlucky guy with the gas leak who flipped on a light switch. However, his luck may not be that bad since he suffered only relatively minor injuries (burns, mostly) despite being reported as having been tossed over his balcony by the force of the blast. Another woman was treated for smoke inhalation and released and a dog was the only casualty of the incident.
Having very little information other than that I can only say that I’m thankful to be unaffected by any of it despite its uncomfortably close proximity. My personal wild speculation is that I wouldn’t be surprised to find it had something to do with a meth lab since that is the kind of thing that goes on in this area quite a bit and the nature of the wounds reported on the primary victim seem suspect. However, other apartment dwellers have suggested that they smelled gas for hours prior to the explosion and even reported it to maintenance who told them they were crazy but called PG&E anyway. PG&E came out and gave the all-clear, saying their equipment could not find any indication of a problem.
Again, I don’t know exactly what is true or not, but the PG&E angle has been reported by actual news outlets so it at least smacks of truthiness. Other residents claim that another neighbor smelled gas the next day and called PG&E who arrived to find a leak in the stove and told them they were lucky to have caught it in time. That story is not reliable in any way, but underscores the point here.
I think it’s pretty clear that regardless of what the investigation turns up, this is a pretty tragic incident despite having the potential to have been much, much worse. It has, understandably, shaken up a lot of the people who live in the complex, Nikki included. In the days following the incident I have seen no fewer than five units being vacated: Whether they are fleeing as a result of the explosion/fire or if it is merely coincidental I again don’t know but I imagine at least one of those families is thinking they might be safer elsewhere.
Here’s my problem with the whole thing: Accidents happen. We all know that. But what we also know (which helps us sleep at night) is that accidents are, in many cases, entirely preventable. This one wasn’t prevented byut it got peopel edgy. Now if I’m the owner or manager of the apartment complex, here’s what I would do:
- Release a notice to all residents stating the facts and only the facts known as of printing time. There was an explosion in building whatever at such and such a time, two people were injured but no one was killed, etc. Then I would state clearly that the early indications suggest that it may have been a gas leak which caused the problem and then list some reminders for hazard response procedures if you smell gas. Note that nowhere in here is a statement of responsibility or blame assignment, it’s just a indication that the office knows what happened and they don’t want it to happen to anyone else. Acknowledgment and reassurance first.
- A day or two later I would coordinate and set up a series of in-unit safety inspections focusing on the gas lines. I would announce this as a voluntary procedure to anyone who was interested and offer it free of charge within the next two weeks. I would also state that residents who wished to opt-out would still get the peace of mind that the gas system would be inspected in less than a week without entry to each unit for leaks or safety defects. In this note I would also suggest that when the official cause of the explosion was known it would be made public, regardless of liability.
- I would follow through by releasing the results of the fire inspection and safety inspections to all residents. Full disclosure.
It seems reasonable to me and would work to show residents (essentially the customers for the business) that you are proactive, open in your communication and willing to work to ensure the safety of those customers.
Instead, the office sent out a notice to all residents… reminding them to update their parking permits or else they would face possible tows at owner’s expense.
Oh, that I were making that up.
I Don’t Know… Stuff?
- Here’s a pretty funny video of a guy trying to use Vista’s voice recognition system to write a three-line perl script. Note, he starts cursing briefly about halfway through, but the video itself is really way too long anyway so you may have shut it off by then. I mean, it’s funny but it ain’t ten minutes funny, you know?
- We stopped by the President’s Day game convention briefly on Saturday. We played a couple of good games and picked up a few more in the dealer’s room. Unfortunately I had to work and Nik wasn’t feeling all that well so we didn’t stay as long as I might have liked. It was the first kind of half-hearted con in some time, although with Lister’s imminent departure for his great European adventure looming, at least we got to get in a small last hurrah.
- Was that out loud?
- We’re supposed to have CNN on one of the monitors at work. Here’s why I hate CNN: They just interrupted a breaking story about a bombing in Iraq for—so not making this up—tips on how to shovel snow. I understand that not every part of the country is experiencing weather like we are (sunny and warm in the mid-70s, thanks for asking) but snow shoveling? Pretty self explanatory. Their biggest tip? Don’t climb onto the roof to shovel off snow… especially if you live in a multi-story home. Genius.