Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Did you hear what happened?

“Didja hear that our local Chemical Plant had an explosion in a unit that makes some kind of bad stuff and a bunch a people were taken to the hospital”? “Yea, I hear they make all kind of poisons and stuff out there and they’re telling folks its no big deal and not to worry”!

I’m being deliberately vague, not to make light of the trauma and injuries, but to make a point. I pray each person involved will make a speedy recovery.

The very next day after the above incident, a Dallas law firm jumps in with a full-page advertisement to help injured people (read: sue the ‘dickens’ out of a chemical company). It was a good Ad and I’m sure they paid plenty for it.

That said I want to make a suggestion. If this or any Chemical Company is found guilty of needlessly endangering lives and livelihood, then I sure as heck-fire hope the injured would use a local Baytown lawyer to represent them, like my brother did when he was seriously injured by a Chemical plant that was proven to neglect the safety of its workers. Glen Vickery was the lawyer.

Businesses should be held accountable for actions that injure people and for violations of OSHA and EPA laws.

Next, large Plants attempt - attempt - attempt to get correct information out so the public can take action and during the incipient stages of an emergency often reported information is pretty confusing. I don’t for one-minute think this local company was trying to cover up an explosion that had many witnesses. The Public Relations people who do the reporting are not smooth-operators brought in to bamboozle ‘Joe Blow, the stupid and ignorant citizen’, so they can dupe them time and time again, but people like you and I who know they will be held accountable for what they tell the EPA and local networks.

Many of us earn our livelihood in these Plants and without their continued prosperity, we both will be moving away. We who work for these companies live here, raise our kids here and we would be the very ones covering up wrong doing and I'll be honest with you, loyalty to companies is not what it was 50 years ago, so the truth be known, we won't cover up wrong doing on the part of the Plant we work for. We won’t.

I’ve told people for years “I don’t want to die here, I just want to make a whole lot of money and go home each evening”.

What the citizens of Baytown want is when something happens (explosions, injuries, etc.), the responsible Plant’s Public Relations department needs to add the Baytown Sun to their list of contacts, along with the EPA, TNRCC, etc. etc. and drop the 'facts' as they know it immediately. This keeps the Sun from unknowingly reporting incorrect data and will inform the community.

After 911 most companies are faced with the frightening burden of dealing with additional threats and to be honest, there are a lot of bugs to be worked out. Times have changed and citizens demand explanations for loud noises and weird scary smells. They want to know if uncle Billy is alive and well. Chemical Companies must respond to this need and changes must be implemented in their approach to community response time.

It’s going to take teamwork between the Chemical Companies, the City, the local networks, and the Baytown Sun to get the facts out in the open. The toughest nut to crack is going to be citizen trust. If citizens really feel the Chemical Companies have their health and safety in mind, at that point, the citizens will give the companies the benefit of the doubt.

We Baytownians shouldn’t speculate and spread rumor over something that has already injured and shook people up, but in the absence of clear information, it will happen every time. I would personally love to have a dedicated AM radio station which information is broadcast when trouble comes around, or maybe tap into Channel 16 television.

Chemical Plants need us as much as we need them and it’s time for a few changes.

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