Catherine Hooper's Blog
Fire in a High-Rise
Tuesday, 21 January 2014 17:03

When a fire started in The Strand high-rise this past Sunday morning, Daniel McClung and Michael Cohen reacted in a typical manner.  They grabbed their two dogs and attempted to exit their 38th floor apartment via the stairwell.  Sadly, they were overwhelmed by smoke when firefighters opened the stairwell door several floors below.  Mr. McClung and the dogs passed away; Mr. Cohen is still in intensive care.

Officials are blaming the most basic of human instincts, instilled in all of us at a young age: when you see flames or smell smoke, get out.  Unfortunately, in many modern high-rise buildings, getting out may be less safe than sheltering in place.

Modern high-rises are typically built using flame retardant materials and fire doors that can withstand an hours-long blaze.  During Sunday’s fire, residents who stayed in their apartments escaped unharmed...even those who stayed in apartments next door to the fire.

Many residents of The Strand were unaware of the building’s fire procedures, despite a fire safety placard posted on every entry door.  One resident, a member of a NJ emergency response team, knew the proper procedures, but still felt compelled to evacuate.  Emergency officials are trying to figure out the best way to communicate fire procedures to those living in high-rise buildings.

Note from the article:  “If evacuation is imperative [during a fire], as a general rule, a stairwell without a standpipe should be used. In the Strand, the second stairwell, Stair B, remained largely free of smoke during the fire.

Video: Swiss Bunkers
Friday, 17 January 2014 22:35

Monocle Magazine is featuring a fascinating video about Swiss bunkers and underground shelters that’s worth a short watch.

During the heyday of the Cold War, the Swiss government passed legislation requiring space in a fallout shelter for every citizen.  While many private homes contain shelter-in-place bunkers, the government also built massive underground facilities that can withstand a significant nuclear attack and subsequent radiation.

Although the law is still in effect, many of the bunkers are now in disuse or being purchased by private entities.  Monocle’s video gets some great imagery from some of the larger bunkers.

2013: Year of the Survival-Themed Movie
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 21:33

The WSJ notes that many of the movies released in 2013, including several that are on the Oscar slate, had a theme of survival and resilience. The slideshow includes some of our favorites, such as World War Z, Lone Survivor and ‘12 Years a Slave.

Fukushima Radiation Myths
Saturday, 04 January 2014 14:06

There have been a lot of shock/scare posts making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter concerning the Fukushima reactor and radiation. This article from Deep Sea News debunks a lot of the hype and is written for the layman.

Are You Prepared for 2014?
Thursday, 02 January 2014 00:23

Novelist and futurist David Brin has a slightly unsettling take on 2014 and what the New Year will bring. He points out that the past two centuries did not “start” in 1800 or 1900; rather, their beginnings were marked in history by their fourteenth year (1814 saw the Congress of Vienna, and WWI started in 1914).

So what does that mean for 2014? While his pattern recognition isn’t exactly scientifically valid, Brin believes that the 21st century has yet to begin and discounts the 9/11 terrorist attacks as the turning point.

The coming year may hold wonders or sorrows, just like every year prior and every year to come.  We at Black Umbrella hope you have a wonderful year and that you’re prepared for whatever adventures life may present.

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Catherine Hooper
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