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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

83 Years Ago Today: Cleveland Clinic Fire 1929

In 1929, the Cleveland Clinic was only 8 years old. Today, one of the best health systems in the country, but 83 years ago today was one of it's darkest.

The clinic (adjacent to the Cleveland Clinic Hospital) was damaged by a fire that reportedly occurred when x-ray film (in those days comprised of nitrocellulose) was stored too close to an incandescent light bulb. The heat from the light bulb igniting the x-ray film, it is believed, caused the fire. Burning this product led to an incredible release of a toxic gas. Two associated explosions occurred during the fire and as this highly toxic gas spread throughout the clinic, dozens died within minutes of inhaling the vapors. 123 died as a result of the fire and more specifically, the toxic fumes, a byproduct of the nitrocellulose burning.

A city policeman (Ernest Staab) was credited with saving 21 victims before also dying from exposure to the toxic fumes. Another death of note from this tragedy included Dr. John Phillips, one of the four physicians who founded the Cleveland Clinic.

Changes that followed the fire included the City of Cleveland issuing gas masks to firefighters (not SCBA in those days but a step closer to recognizing the need to provide respiratory protection for firefighters) "and a proposed city ambulance service".

National changes included some of the first efforts to regulate the storage and use of hazardous materials. Additionally, the x-ray film industry developed a "safety film" that within the next five years had generally supplanted the nitrocellulose in the world of radiology.

From an article on the Associated Press wire; May 16, 1929.

"The fumes were given off by fire of undetermined origin which destroyed X-ray films in the basement. Some pharmacists said it was bromine gas, while DR. WILLIAM E. LOWER, one of the founders of the clinic, said it resembled the deadly phosgene gas employed in the World war. It was ironic that the disaster occurred in the very place where the most advanced instruments and laboratories of science had been turned against pain and death. The clinic was owned principally by DR. GEORGE W. CRILE, nationally known physician, who was too occupied with relief work to comment of the catastrophe.A block away he was blinded by the gas. The first firemen to arrive turned in a second alarm and police, hospital and county morgue ambulances were concentrated about the building.
Battalion Fire Chief JAMES P. FLYNN, with his driver, LOUIS HILLENBRAND, were the first to enter the building. They reached the roof and chopped a hole leading to a stairway, then dropped a ladder to the fourth floor landing. Below they found sixteen bodies, one a doctor and another a nurse, strewn along the staircase.
The physician, DR. J. L. LOCKE, was taken out first and was revived. Five of the others were taken to the roof and carried down ladders as arriving firemen battered in windows to reach those inside.
Ambulances and taxicabs were used to take them to hospitals. DR. GEORGE W. CRILE, head of the clinic, gave orders that all victims be taken to the closest source of oxygen, their only hope of life."

Sources for the blog were found here:,-oh-clinic-explosion-fire,-may-1929

Additional photos can be found here:

Note from the author:
There is a relentless ebb and flow regarding the debate of too much and too little "government regulation" that demands our attention on an ongoing basis. Each disaster compels us to visit and revisit rules and regulations to determine if they (those rules and regulations) are either current or applicable. In a free market economy (which I'll add is the best in the world) there are always balances that must be measured to assure businesses remain healthy and profitable and yet, employees and in this case, visitors and patients as well, are safe from dangers such as occurred in this situation. Each disaster cries out to say, don't let this happen again. Our best efforts are generally limited to the chances the "this" of the last disaster does not happen again. Nevertheless, while we are more likely to recognize the hazards and vulnerabilities of our last disaster and act accordingly, the hazard and vulnerability analysis process continues to be an evolving part art and part science of the disaster community.

As with this disaster, the body of science gave us safer clinics and hospitals. This led to new regulations as previously discussed. Not all disasters are foreseen and thus minimized or averted but when they do happen, and we learn from them, they are less likely to impact our lives in such a tragic way. Choosing not to learn from our past tragedies is the least expensive option for the moment but the cost over time can be and generally is enormous in terms of both lives and property. 

Randy Kearns

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Irene 2011

This is a big deal.

Governor Perdue Declares State of Emergency for eastern NC Counties.
(image posted is from the Facebook website for the NC Ambulance Strike Teams)

President Obama has Declared an Emergency for North Carolina

So, what does this do? It allows FEMA to "lean forward" and begin to push assets into staging areas as well as create a funding source for state agencies such as State Medical Assistance Teams (SMAT), NC Urban Search and Rescue Teams (USAR), and Ambulance Strike Teams (ASTs) to also preposition so that actual response is timely and expeditiously.

North Carolina consistently ranks as one of the best prepared states in America and given the 2011 Spring Tornadoes, the Earthquake felt in North Carolina on Tuesday August 23 and the arrival of Hurricane Irene on Saturday the 27th, Irene will again, test that preparedness.
First Post 8/25/2011 check back for updates.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

North Carolina Tornadoes 2011

Initial Edition 08:30 4/17
Revised 09:00 4/17
Revised 14:00 4/17
Revised 15:45 4/17
Revised 16:00 4/17
Revised 19:15 4/17
Revised 22:00 4/17
Revised 07:00 4/18
Revised 16:00 4/18
Revised 08:00 4/19
Revised 18:00 4/19
Revised 21:30 4/19
Revised 20:00 4/22 Just a note to reflect that the response period is over and no further entries will be made on this particular entry.

The follow on article of this blog will be the North Carolina Tornadoes 2011 -Recovery

President Declares parts of North Carolina a disaster area. Breaking news being reported now on

North Carolina Tornadoes 2011 - Response

During the afternoon of April 16, 2011, a swath of severe weather swept across North Carolina, with areas hardest impacted being east of US 1. The initial report, suggested at least 62 tornadoes struck the state leaving damage in 20 of the state's 100 counties. As of this afternoon (4/19) the number has been revised to 25 tornadoes produced by 12 supercell thunderstorms with five of the tornadoes being identified as EF3 in intensity. The damage is reported now in 32 of the states 100 counties. A disaster declaration has been submitted for 18 of the hardest hit counties; Bertie, Bladen, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Greene, Halifax, Harnett, Hertford, Hoke, Johnston, Lee, Onslow, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Wake and Wilson counties.

According to the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, 22 were killed in the series of tornadoes in North Carolina (Saturday 4/16). While several reports, WRAL the morning of the 17th and NBC 17 which initially reported more deaths, at this point, both have revised their report of fatalities down to 22 by16:00 4/17. A number of news outlets during their evening broadcasts 18:00 4/18 are reporting 23 fatalities but at this point there is nothing confirming that number and no articles posted online. (Editorial note, I can only add up 21 based on the confirmed reports, but various news stations are still reporting 23 at this time.) At 14:00 4/19, the six month old infant critically injured in Wake County succumbed to her injuries and died increasing the death toll to 24 as being reported now by various news outlets.

New York Times 4/19/2011 Quote of the day . . .

"All of the sudden I heard the screech, like when nails get pulled out of wood, and that really loud roar. We closed our eyes and when we woke up again we were outside."

JAMES LEVON WHITE, who survived a lethal tornado near Askewville, N.C., along with his wife, Hattie.

Historically, hurricanes are the greatest meteorological threat to North Carolinians. While tornadoes in North Carolina are typically less intense and fewer in numbers than states in the midwest, this was clearly a horrific meteorological event.

Not since the March 1984 Tornadoes (which occurred at night and killed 57 over the Carolinas, 42 in North Carolina alone) have such widespread death and devastation struck North Carolina from tornadoes and associated storms. 220,000+ homes were listed as being without power shortly after the storms passed.
Six Urban Search and Rescue Teams were deployed Sunday across the state as more were either missing or unaccounted for by friends/families.

Stories have been told of heroism from everyday citizens such as the employee at Lowes Home Improvement store in Sanford. Seeing the oncoming storm (he/she) alerted shoppers through the overhead intercom and directed them to a safer part of the store just before the tornado struck, destroying more than half of the store. No fatalities were reported at the store despite the widespread damage and how busy the store was on a Saturday afternoon.

Incredible reports of lifesaving, search and rescue efforts on behalf of emergency responders have emerged from Wake County and Harnett County. However, knowing responders in much of this state, it is less surprising and more confirming of their skills and professionalism I've seen before from them. And, while that is only two counties, this could be said for the areas impacted as well based on what I know of those areas, I just can't confirm it with quotes or reports currently posted online from news sources.

Several Select Counties:

Bertie County - (updated 18:00 4/18) The number of those killed has fluctuated to as high as 14 the morning of the 17th, to 10 during the afternoon and now sits at 11. The worst hit area was clearly in and around the town of Askewville. Various reports indicate this damage was produced by more than one EF3 tornado.
11 Are now reported to have been killed in Bertie County.
Several of those killed were in an Assisted Living Facility. (facility and actual number not identified.) (Based on the address and a cross reference of Assisted Living Facilities Index, this was Moore's Family Care Home (either #1 or #2)
The Assisted Living Facility was on Morris Ford Road in Colerain, and according to the County Manager, Zee Lamb, "one or more of the fatalities were at a local assisted living facility".
Much of the damage in Bertie County occurred between the communities of Askewville and Colerain, killing 11 and destroying 68 structures.
The eleven who lost their lives include:
— Louis Chamblee, 54, Colerain.
— Gayle Hinchey, 56, Colerain.
— Barbara Lafferty, 64, Colerain
— Roy Lafferty Jr. 72, Colerain.
— Peggy Leary, 60, Colerain.
— Dorothy Mitchell, 66, Colerain.
— Robert Perry, 77, Colerain.
— Milton Sutton, 51, Colerain.
— Mildred Warren, 68, Colerain.
— Celia White, 96, Colerain.
— Helen Alston White, 90, Colerain.

Bladen County - (Updated 18:00 4/18) Previous links deleted. Four are now confirmed dead in Bladen County. Three in Ammon; Mark Avery 92, Tony Avery 50, and Darleen Zupo 53, all were off Hwy 242 at Fayetteville Rd with Tony Avery succumbing to his injuries after being transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. All were in a mobile home that was destroyed. A fourth person, Brian Baptist 50 died in Bladenboro after being "thrown against a tree" (as the tornado passed) who at the Britt's Mobile Home Park.

Cumberland, Hoke and Sampson Counties - (update 08:00 4/19) reported that one person was killed on Vault Field Road in the town of Linden Cumberland County. There is also a report that 85 were transported to the Cape Fear Valley Hospitals for their injuries. Dorothy Chambers 82, of Vault Field Road was killed when a tornado struck her house. She was there with her 78 year old husband, and her 47 year old daughter in their home when "the house began to shake and spin like a scene out of the Wizard of Oz. The Sky got dark and all of a sudden the floor started lifting up."
This tornado destroyed 167 homes, and left another 144 damaged. The damage was caused by an EF3 tornado. This tornado is believed to have originated in nearby Hoke County, came across Cumberland County and ended in Harnett County. A second tornado, and EF2 began in SE Cumberland County and ended in Sampson County.

Greene County - (updated 19:30 4/18) 150 homes damaged and the Greene County Middle School was destroyed following the tornadoes. There were no reports of serious injury.

Harnett County - Johnston County - (updated 18:00 4/18)
[Although there were early reports of one fatality in the Dunn/Johnston County area (Dunn is not in Johnston Co) there is nothing being reported at this time and that number and the source is now removed.]
Johnston Memorial Hospital reported treating 55 injuries following the disaster. Damage thus far appears to be in the area of $4.5 million. Damage in the Micro and Four Oaks communities bore the brunt of the damage and the numbers appear to suggest 100+ structures are damaged.
A FoodLion Distribution Center, a massive facility on US Hwy 301 was damaged and ammonia was reported leaking from the damage.
The damage in Harnett County is believed to have been the result of a tornado that originated in Hoke County and was an EF3. The tornado in Johnston County was an EF1.
The death in Dunn is reported to be Juan Garcia Sanchez.

Lee County - (updated 18:00 4/18) Two were reported to have been killed in Sanford, Lee County near where the tornado struck the Lowes Home Improvement Store. This tornado, was determined by the NWS as an F3, originated in Lee County, and headed north through the edge of Chatham County and swept across Wake County causing much of the damage there.
Based on an a report on WTVD, the Lowes manager, Mike Hollowell, used the overhead paging system to direct approximately 50 employees and 60 customers to the safest part of the building "it was so tight that you couldn't move with everybody in the hallway, we got as close as we could" . . .they had a plan, they had practiced their plan and it saved lives! GREAT STORY! (it was reported 4/18 that President Obama had phoned Mr. Hollowell to offer praise for his actions, again, this is a great story worth repeating and reminding us of the importance of disaster preparedness/planning.)
An industrial plant; Static Control was "leveled".
One fatality occurred in a home on Rice Rd east of Sanford, the second was a motorist on Rocky Fork Church Road near Lemon Springs. (names were not released.)
Central Carolina Hospital in Sanford, reported seeing 35 patients after the storm.
This tornado, originated in Moore County, crossed Lee County, through the corner of Chatham County, entered Wake County and ended in Franklin County as an EF3 most of the time.
The dead are reported to be Michael Chambers of Brookhaven Drive Sanford was killed when his car was struck by a falling tree while driving in Lemon Springs. Alan Hunter also 43, of Watsons Nursery Lane in Sanford, died when his mobile home was heavily damaged.

Person County (update 08:00 4/19) Scene of the first confirmed tornado touchdown in the series of storms (although Rowan, Davie and Davidson have what may have also been an EF0 strike of a tornado/tornadoes) . No serious injuries were reported and damage details were not in the reports reviewed thus far. The Person County Tornado was an EF2.

Wake County (update 18:00 4/19)- reported that three were killed at Stony Brook North, a mobile home park in northeast Raleigh.
The three killed were: Kevin Coronado 3 years old, Osvaldo Coronado 8 years old, Daniel Quistan Nino 9 years old, and a 4th child is in critical condition with a severe head injury; Yaire Quistian Nino 6 month old.
Shaw University was damaged significantly in the Raleigh area, has closed and students have been told to go home, the balance of the semester including finals, has been canceled.
This particular tornado was rated as EF3 and originated in Moore County near Lee County.
An estimated 63 homes in Raleigh were destroyed and another 184 suffered major damage. The estimated damage is between $3 and $5 million.
Update 19:00 damage could reach $100 million,
The fourth child, Yaire Quistian Nino 6 month old is reported to have died this afternoon, 4/19.
At least 851 homes sustained minor damage in addition to the initial numbers reported.

Wilson County (updated 08:00 4/19) Touchdown of an EF2 in Wilson County with damage reports varying at this point.

Womack Army Medical Center lost power and was on generator back up power. Power was be restored to much of Fort Bragg by midday 4/17.

State officials also activated the Governor’s Hotline Tuesday. People who want to volunteer or donate goods can call toll free (888) 835-9966. The hotline will be staffed daily from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Tornadoes in North Carolina from 1950-1995

(Updated 4/17 18:00)According to a source that is validated but not for public distribution, damage has been reported in the following counties:
Bladen (with state of emergency currently in place)
Cumberland (with state of emergency currently in place)
Greene (with state of emergency currently in place)
Halifax (with state of emergency currently in place)
Onslow (with state of emergency currently in place)
Pender (with state of emergency currently in place)
Robeson (with state of emergency currently in place)
Sampson (with state of emergency currently in place)
Harnett (with state of emergency currently in place)
Johnson (with state of emergency currently in place)
Wake (with state of emergency currently in place)
Wilson (with state of emergency currently in place)
As of 18:00 4/17
Six (6) Urban Search and Rescue Teams currently deployed.
Four (4) HazMat Teams currently deployed.

For initial NWS raw data from eastern North Carolina click here:

The top image is from the National Weather Service. All other pictures are from WRAL and all rights to those images remain with those who posted the images. Their use here is through "the fair use doctrine" and intended for educational purposes only.

Also added several YouTube links to the damage as it unfolded.

Shaw University being damaged . . .

For more information regarding the 1984 Tornadoes that killed 57 and occurred after dark,

For more information regarding tornadoes from North Carolina State University:

Enhanced Fujita tornado ratings based on wind speed:

EF-0 65-85 mph
EF-1 86-110 mph
EF-2 111-135 mph
EF-3 136-165 mph
EF-4 166-200 mph
EF-5 200 mph+

For more information regarding our programs, please visit us at:

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bomb on Board Airliner, Explodes, Crashes near Wilmington NC (50 years ago today)

Two questions:

1: When you hear the phrase "bomb on an airplane" what comes to mind? Northwest flight 253 bound for Detroit on Christmas Day? Pan Am Flight 103 bound for New York bombed out of the sky near Lockerbie, Scotland just days before Christmas 1988 killing 259?

2: Is this such a novel idea and should we expect the government to be able to protect us 100% of the time?

50 years ago, in the early morning of January 6, 1960 on a flight bound from New York to Miami, National Flight 2511 crashed near Bolivia, North Carolina. The evening started as any other at an airport terminal as 105 were set board their National Flight 601 from New York bound for Miami on a Boeing 707. A problem was discovered (broken window) with the aircraft. With no others similar in size available, National Airlines decided to break the flight into two groups and using two smaller aircraft, one a Lockheed Electra and the other being a Douglas DC 6B. Those who could be accommodated were placed on flight 601 (Lockheed) and the 29 remaining were placed on a flight 2511 (DC 6B). The flight originated at New York International Airport (Anderson Field) a hub for National Airlines.
[1980, National Airlines was absorbed into Pan American Airlines.]
[The airport was originally built on grounds that once were used by Idlewild Golf Course. The original name of the airport was the Idlewild Airport that was renamed during WWII for General Alexander Anderson. In 1948, and until 1963, the name was changed to reflect both and carried the name; New York International, Anderson Field. In 1963 it was renamed and what we know today as the John F. Kennedy International Airport.]
Finally, at 11:34 pm one of the two aircraft, National Flight 2511 departed for Miami with 29 on board and a crew of 5. The flight was routine and checked in with the company radio station in Wilmington NC at 3:31 am. At 3:38 am the flight began a sudden, wide, and descending right turn, presumably attempting to return and land at the Wilmington, NC Airport.
[In 1960, the tower at the Wilmington airport was not manned. It was the airline’s responsibility to maintain radio communications, thus the contact with the company radio station.]
Shortly thereafter, it crashed in a field near the town of Bolivia just south of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Based on the report filed by the Civil Aeronautics Board [predecessor organization that investigated crashes to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)] the aircraft was most likely attempting to make an emergency landing at Wilmington. Many of the bodies recovered following the crash, were wearing “Mae West Vests” [a life jacket] and were preparing for a “water landing.” Following what later was determined to have been the explosion on board, enough of the aircraft remained intact to the point that it was able to begin the turning process in an attempt to land at the Wilmington Airport. However, just minutes later, the aircraft broke apart just above ground near the town of Bolivia, NC with much of the plane coming down in a field.

Early into the crash investigation, two bodies were missing and both created more questions than offered answers. The first was a Cuban banker flying back to Miami. Given the turmoil of the state relationship between Cuba and the United States, one initial consideration included the thought that he had contributed to the crash of the flight.
A second was discovered several days later, near Snow Marsh, (across the Cape Fear River from Kure Beach) that of Julian Frank, a New York Attorney. In the days that followed, the Coroner’s report revealed residue on the Frank remains that suggested he had been the victim of a violent explosion, probably involving dynamite. Based on the type and location of injuries, the blast occurred either in a bag carried on his lap or just under his seat.
As the investigation continue to unfold, during the recovery of the debris, remains from the 34th victim were recovered. They were found beneath part of the wreckage. With all 33 bodies recovered who were in the plane at the time it struck the ground, and all having similar injuries, the investigation focused on Mr. Frank.

The United States Marine Corp from Camp Lejeune sent hundreds of troops and helicopters in what was one of the largest military response to civilian disaster during the time. 450 US Marines joined 125 National Guardsmen in their search for aircraft parts and personal remains.

A hanger at the airport was used and painstaking effort was made to reconstruct the entire aircraft in the hanger. A large makeshift morgue was opened to conduct autopsies in the Southport High School Gym.

Among the dead included Retired Vice Admiral Edward O. McDonald.
The explosion occurred while in flight. The flight had a significant delay before departing. The aircraft used had not been in service for several days. And, since the aircraft was presumable over water, it was believed that the bomb had to have been onboard and activated by someone onboard.
As law enforcement poured over Frank's background, it was learned that he had been under investigation for fraud and embezzlement at the time of the crash. It was further learned that he had purchased significant amounts of life insurance before the trip.
Confounding evidence suggested that Frank, as a commercial lawyer, had insufficient knowledge to have built a complex suitcase bomb. Furthermore, another National Airlines (Flight 967) had crashed under similar circumstances less than two months earlier while over the Gulf of Mexico.

In the end, who did it?

Was the bomb placed on the plane before it took off? Unlikely.

Did an attorney with no known electronics or explosives knowledge, have access to the components and the ability to build such a bomb? Unlikely.

Did a “hit man” place the bomb under his seat, if so did he get the timing just that right, just that close? Very unlikely.

Did an attorney, who knew the law, and purchased significant amounts of insurance that he knew would be voided if he committed suicide, activate the bomb? Unlikely.

Did the crash of NAL Flight 967 have any connections with NAL 2511? Unknown.

We know what happened but we don’t know who did it. Officially, this remains an open, unsolved case.

So, let’s move to 2010. And as we recap this historical account, what have we learned?
Regardless of the approach with private guards and contract agencies, or more recently, as a nation, we have demanded and have received a level of security that makes it far more difficult for someone today to covertly take aboard, a concealed explosive device, and detonate it.
The type of device brought aboard Northwest Flight 253 was not detectible using traditional equipment that is normally found at a checkpoint.

This is more of an organized effort to strike a blow at the citizens of the United States, and less of an effort to take a singular action or "lone wolf" attack. Regardless, our nation will and should take reasonable steps to make the traveling public safer through additional technology and processes. From this conclusion I have three hopes: first; that it successfully dissuades someone from considering the next bombing, second; that it gives the flying public more confidence in the safety of commercial air travel, and third; that the new demand for new devices to protect the flying public creates domestic jobs.

Wilmington Star News, various newspaper accounts from the evening (special edition) of January 6, 1960 and included an anniversary edition, January 6, 1961.

Additional Accounts and Photos by a Photojournalist of the time, Hugh Morton:
Opinion of the writer:
Singular destructive acts, for the purpose of advancing ones position or creating anarchy for another has been going on longer than the existence of our country. From the Bath school bombings in 1927, the past 100 years of US history has more than a few acts of violence aimed at altering either local or national attitudes. While those were domestic terrorism events, and we used other terms to describe the actions, those acts where what we routinely describe today as terrorism. For terrorism to succeed, we have to feel, and act in a fearful way.

Profiling those from certain countries may be helpful, but we need to be cautious. Timothy McVeigh, Richard Reed, Eric Rudolph were British and US citizens when each committed (or attempted to commit) an act of terrorism in the US. While a majority may come from a county on the terror watch list, or practice a religion that is neither Christian nor Judaism, however such a narrowed focus could make it easier to miss the Timothy McVeigh’s of the world.

I conclude by saying this; it is an unrealistic expectation that air travel, train travel, or life in general will ever be 100% safe from the threat of terrorism. That is the price of the constitutional freedoms we enjoy. I depend on the government to put reasonable rules in place to be sure we are reasonably safe in these locations and situations. But, nothing is nor can it be 100% without risk. The last but most important line of defense with terrorism is not the government, it is us.

What are you willing to do if someone attempts to ignite their shoe, or something hidden under their blanket? I certainly hope to never fly with a terrorist but I will add, if one is on my airplane, please let him sit next to me. And, even if you do not stop the terrorist, was his body found with an ink pen that traveled through his eye and embedded in his brain? Did his face have a distinct reverse impression of HP on forehead? Or did you watch him carry out his mission? Have you thought about this and are you prepared?