Posts Tagged ‘General’

Over time, I’m slowly writing a recount of my life and notable incidents. On such incident was wen I was caught up in an accident at work at incident when fire extinguishing gas was accidentally dropped. This is my story of that incident:

A Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery Exercise? Nope. It was real, but a great scenario nevertheless.

It was around 07:00 on a Monday morning. I had just started my shift in a large computer installation and was in the middle of the handover from the previous nights shift. It was at this time, same time, every week, the the fire alarms were tested. This involved inserting a key into the fire alarm control panel and manually sounding the alarms. Doing it this way meant that the local fire service wasn’t alerted so the they didn’t respond to a non-event.

Anyway, as I intimated, I had just arrived at the Data Centre and was in the middle of the shift handover process. For me, this particular week was an exciting week as it was my first week back on shift having been on a secondment for the past 6+ months working days [the worse part of the secondment] and so I was naturally keen to get back into the reactive operational environment I so much preferred.

As we were going through the events of the previous night and a review of the coming days schedule and without warning, there was a loud hissing sound and I mean LOUD, followed by escaping clouds of what I would describe as being of a dry ice cloud type. In a flash we all realised this was not dry ice, neither was it supposed to be happening. We also realised that perhaps, just possibly, we really didn’t want to be around as this ‘dry ice cloud’ was in fact Halon Gas [designed to extinguish fires]. At this point, everybody ran for the nearest fire exit to get out of the building. Now, I don’t know why, but I headed for the fire escape I had become used to during my recent secondment, which was at the far end of the wing  we were in, which housed the data prep department (in the 70s and 80s, all data was entered into the computers on a batch job basis. This data was keyed in by an army of data prep operators). This meant I had to run, through clouds of Halon, naturally holding my breath, as fast I could. As you can probably guess, the clouds of Halon impair visibility ‘big time’ and so because of this, combined with me holding my breath and running, in my mind, like Linford Christie, I failed to notice that the route I had chosen did not go in the logical straight line to the door (as it used to) but it now took a dog leg around a five foot stationary cupboard.

You’ve probably guessed the next bit!

I ran, at full speed, straight into the cupboard, the top of which reached just above my eyes. The outcome was inevitable. Pain, intense pain and a lot, and I mean a lot, of blood. But I knew, I couldn’t stop: I had to carry on and get out of the room before the gas became too much and cut my oxygen supply off.

It’s worth pointing out at this time, that yes, I do know that Halon isn’t quite as bad as CO2 and that the gas probably won’t suffocate you, though if you have a bad heart, it certainly wont do you any good. But, when you’re in a room being filled with gas and you can’t see a blooming this, your natural instinct is to get the heck of it. So I did.

How I did it, I really don’t know, but somehow, holding my hands to my face 1) to stop the blood (a useless gesture) and 2) to stop the gas getting at me (another useless gesture), I reached the double doors that led to the stairwell and subsequent safety. I pushed open the doors and literally threw myself down two flights of stairs, through another set of doors and out into the open air. I was greeted by my colleagues who had become concerned when they realised that I hadn’t followed them out of the fire escape they used. At the same time however, they also became concerned at the amount of blood that was now gushing from where my nose was (I’ve still got it, but it didn’t look like it at the time). I don’t remember a lot after this but I do remember somebody rushing into the ladies toilets and coming out with something absorbent to hold over  my nose. By now, the outside was covered in blood: it must have looked like a war zone.

At this point the decision was taken that I needed to go to the hospital [a fair assessment I would say] but rather than wait for an ambulance I would driven their, face appropriately dressed with something alien to most blokes. On reaching A&E I was quickly taken in for examination. Here, I remember very little. I do know that wanted to understand what sort of gas it was; they also wanted to know who else may have been affected by it. I’m guessing this was early days of Halon Gas as at the tome, nobody at the hospital had heard of it so they had to phone whoever they phone when they need to know such information.

AFter satisfying themselves that the gas was not a product that would counteract with anaesthetic, I was quickly taken down (or along, or up) tot he theatre where those lovely sleepy time drugs were administered. As I counted backwards from 10, I remember somebody putting their hand round my throat as I drifted off into la la land.

Now, before you think I imagined the hands around my throat bit, the reason they do this is because anybody with Hiatus Hernia (which I have) is prone to reflux when anaesthetic  is administered. In such situations, the reflux can be taken back down into the lungs, which isn’t good I can assure you. The hands around the throat are to prevent the reflux coming up.

I awoke some while later having had my nose stitched back (6-stitches) to where it should be and the bridge between my eyes also sown back together (7-stitches). Apparently I also had a fracture to the frontal bone just above my eyes: I also had a bot of a headache but, other than that, I was fine.

Meanwhile, back at the Data Centre (now out of bounds due to the presence of gas), people were starting to arriving to start what they thought was going to be just another day at the office. People were all milling about whispering to each other, steering clear of all the blood, and telling each other what they had heard had happened. There was however one poor person who was standing around who didn’t have a clue what was going on. Nobody could face telling here. This poor person was Terri, my wife: nobody had informed her. Eventually, somebody had the decency to inform her that the blood all around her was from her husband  who was now in hospital and probably heading into theatre. Nice. Naturally, Terri, accompanied by one of my colleagues came straight to the hospital.

Contractors were brought in to clean the blood while the fire service and the gas installers checked the building to ensure it was safe occupy. I don’t know when, I was after all out of it by now, but I’m guessing it was around around lunchtime, all staff were allowed into the building. As everybody filed back in, the girls from Data Prep then saw the bloodies imprint of my hand on their exit door and demanded that it be cleaned. Don’t know why it hadn’t been cleaned already but in the confusion I guess it had just been missed.

Everybody settled back into work, although the events of the day were clearly the topic of many conversations. At the same time, the gas installers were busy refilling the Halon Gas Cylinders. As they were doing this, somehow, the engineers must have triggered the pre-gas drop alarm. The Data Prep supervisor turned to tell everybody to leave as quick as possible. All she saw was an empty room and swinging exit doors.

So, why didn’t the alarm go off before the gas dropped earlier in the morning? I hear you ask. Well, as it turned out, the poor maintenance guy who tested the alarms that morning put the key, as he every week, into the test lock to sound the alarms. Unfortunately, next to the test lock was the drop lock. The same key operated both. He put the key in the wrong lock and initiated a drop. This was a facility to enable a manual drop of gas in case of fire. Once you trigger this, it cannot be aborted. It was all or nothing. We got it all; every last drop.

Back at the hospital, people were dropping in to see how I was. Colleagues 50, 60 miles away had heard of the incident and came down to see me. I was genuinely touched by the level of care and consideration shown by all. I even received a telephone call from the CTO who was in the USA at the time, to ask how I was and to tell me to take as long as I need and to make sure that I was fully recovered before thinking of coming back to work (this was genuine concern over my well being).

Then came the Union. They thought it was Christmas and convinced me that I should claim for what had happened. My initial reaction was not to, after all, it was a genuine accident but then I thought well actually, yes I will. Mainly because they had failed / neglected to inform my wife what had happened. And so the claim went ahead while I languished at home for 6-weeks through a long hot summer while many people would come round just to view me and my horrible injuries (I so which I had photos).

Eventually, after what seemed an eternity, we settled out of court. It was’t a vast sum, but it was the principle more than anything else. With my money, I bought a nice shiny new road bike with titanium frame and new integrated gears and so the interest in cycling was once again reborn and it has never wained since.

That’s pretty much it really. You’ll notice that the only name used was that of Terri, my wife. All other names were deliberately omitted to protect from embarrassing or offending anybody. Those that did help me in the aftermath and demonstrated clear friendship and concern will always be remembered and my thanks go to all of you.

Go Podge, Go.

Back in the Saddle

Posted: September 28, 2011 in Cycling

For an overweight old Codger with 48% Lung Effectiveness I don’t think I’m doing too bad. Maybe I’ll not give up the cycling after all. 🙂 🙂 🙂

This image is the property of Podgethepuffer. Unauthorised use is very naughty.

Click on image for alternate stats.

It’ll be the Alps next…….. Not

Drivers, Young and Old

Posted: September 21, 2010 in Rant

There has been a lot of discussion recently over how drivers, in particular young drivers should be managed such that the number of accidents can be reduced. Suggestions have included banning new drivers from driving at night and preventing young drivers carrying people of their same age for the first couple of years. The problems with these and other similar, but well meaning suggestions are, in my mind, unenforceable and impractical.

Now, I have my own thoughts on how perhaps the drivers of this country can be ‘managed’ such that they do not drive beyond their own abilities and the beauty of my suggestion is that the basic building blocks to implement such a scheme already exist.

I won’t put it into lots of flowery words or try to justify my thoughts, I will simply put them down and let the reader make his or her mind up on it’s merits.

The scheme would work like this:

When a driver passes the driving test, then the driver will be entitled to drive any vehicle in accordance with insurance limitations up to a maxim of group 2 (assuming groups, for this argument run from 1 to 20). This entitlement shall run for two years.

Assuming there have been no traffic violations for that duration, then the driving entitlement shall move up 2 groups. This will then continue every year until the maximum is reached.

There should be a mechanism to allow the courts lower the entitlement already gained where traffic violations are deemed to be too serious to ignore.

This scheme would stop all young drivers irrespective of wealth driving any vehicle too powerful for their prevailing levels of experience and manage repeat offenders by dropping their entitlement.

I don’t doubt that there would need to be a lot more substance behind the scheme but I do believe that it could work. I do also believe that the motor industry would be against the scheme, and possibly the insurers but if saves lives, young and old, it has to be worthy of consideration.

There, I’ve said my piece, so now I’ll go back to my diet and training.

Kites, Rabbits and Moles

Posted: August 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

With only 2 more sleeps to cruising, today, as with yesterday, I was up before the cows: This time however it was so that I could take Master Nicholas to work (he’s learning to drive now so hopefully, these early starts will be fewer). Early starts do however have their advantages. Being out on the roads in the early hours does mean that one gets to see a wider variety of wildlife: Fox, Stoat, Partridge, Deer (Roe and Muntjac) and on this occasion something I had always hoped to see but never thought I would.

Driving along the A4 between Hungerford and Newbury, we saw the normal collection of birds breakfasting on the previous nights roadkill and as always, these birds seem to time their departure before our arrival with absolute precision. One of the groups of birds however had a somewhat different look about it which I couldn’t quite make out. As we got closer however the Magpies left leaving a Red Kite getting as much as he could for breakfast before it was too late. Seeing this beautiful creature lift off just in front of my car was, for me, a sight to behold. As I drove by, I saw him, or her, in my mirrors circling before dropping back down to continue the interrupted meal.

Seeing this creature confused me. You see, I was of the belief that Red Kites were true birds of prey that relied only on fresh kills made by themselves. If this was the case then why was this one eating roadkill? Is there not enough prey in the area of all the Kites? Are we going to start seeing Red Kites as roadkill themselves? Not a nice thought and one a brushed from my mind.

It turns out however that they are actually opportunists and scavengers although they are of a predatory nature they only take little things like worms through to mice (not exactly eagle like). This did actually upset me a little. You see, we have a couple of Kite’s seemingly checking out the trees around us. The hope is that they settle down and make one these trees their home and start a family of their own. My reasons are purely selfish.

Quite apart from the joy of having such beautiful creatures in your own back yard I do actually have a veritable bird of prey fast food outlet in my very own back garden. Over the past 12 months, a small family of rabbits have moved into, or more accurately, under my back garden. This small family is now, inevitably quit a large family with little sign of any slow down in birth rate. Surely such a bountiful supply of fresh meat would be perfect for the Red Kites. With such a mix of wild life I think I could put up with rabbits in the garden, even though they they eat just about everything I plant, yet curiously, they never eat the weeds.

Maybe, I thought, I could start shooting the Rabbits and leaving them out in the open for the Kites to find, that way I could reduce the Rabbit population and keep the Red Kites hunger sated, but no, this might not be such a good idea. My preferred weapon for shooting Rabbits would be the Air Rifle. The inevitable pellet or pellets left in the rabbit could cause lead poisoning in the Kite. This would not be good for me or the Kite.

So, what does all this mean? Not a lot actually: It means that I had an interesting morning: I saw a Red Kite: The Rabbits will continue as before and the Kites will continue to circle our trees. Hopefully they will settle. I guess that I will just have to leave nature to present to me whatever it will and I shall continue to savour all the good moments. In the meantime however, I have one more problem: Moles.

In addition to the Rabbits, I also have Moles and open warfare has now been declared on them. They are ruining my lawn and beds and leaving the ground underfoot almost dangerous. Well maybe not dangerous but twisting your foot when it falls into one of their runs isn’t funny. So, the mole traps have been sourced and they only remain to be laid in place. Maybe the moles will encourage the Kites: I do hope so. For more on the Red Kite by the way, why not visit the Red Kite Feeding Station @

In the mean time however, the Moles have a weeks reprieve as there is now just 2 more sleeps to cruising. Yippee.