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Emphasis on Safety
August 10, 2010

Safety Allows Dryden to 'Do the Difficult and Impossible'

Center Director David McBride thanked Dryden employees for their contributions and reminded them to work safely.Center Director David McBride thanked Dryden employees for their contributions and reminded them to work safely. (NASA Photo / Tony Landis) A screen flashed with dazzling images of an Orion crew module and launch abort system successfully flying at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Another image showed the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, which had a number of milestones recently including the first observations in flight through its telescope.

The Global Hawk flew across the screen, much like it did during its first science missions in April. The DC-8 completed an Operation IceBridge mission to examine changes in ice shelves and sea ice. Dryden also assisted in imaging and research when the G-III was sent to monitor Haiti fault lines after the earthquake there and the ER-2 flew to take images of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

It was a short video, but it was packed with major Dryden achievements all over the world and research that will impact people everywhere, said Dryden Center Director David McBride at the July 15 Dryden Safety Day.

"Everything you saw on the screen was because of you. We are accomplishing our jobs safely. We need to continue to do that," McBride said.

Safety also continues to be a hallmark of Dryden's construction programs as an eleventh year was marked with no safety mishaps, he added. However, McBride cautioned that vigilance is required to avoid an emerging safety trend. McBride's slides showed an increase in injuries.

"If the injury rate remains the same by the end of December, we will have a record year for injuries at Dryden," McBride said. "What this means over the long run is that everyone who spends over 20 years of his or her career at Dryden can expect to suffer an injury. This is a record I don't care for Dryden to obtain."

McBride acknowledged that Dryden's flight research work has inherent risks.

"This is a dangerous business. We do dangerous things and people do get hurt. But we never conduct an operation that is not safe. The nature of our business is risk and we need to understand what each risk is. Then we continue to do the difficult and impossible," he said.

The next speaker noted that Dryden employees are working safely at work but asked whether they were as aggressive in preparing at home for a natural disaster, such as an earthquake.

Capt. Scott Polgar of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said only 9 percent of people are prepared for an emergency and only about 4 percent of them have enough water for five days.

The Haitian earthquake is an example of how severe a natural disaster can be. The disaster claimed 22,000 lives and 1.5 million people remain homeless, seeking shelter in what has become the largest refugee camp in the world, he said.

California has its share of earthquakes, fires and floods, Polgar said. As a result, the state emergency services have developed partnerships and mutual aid agreements that work better than anywhere else because they are often used.

"Emergency services here are a well-oiled machine that is second to none," he said.

When a disaster happens emergency services are often overwhelmed, but there is a procedure that allows responders to access the severity of the event, survey the challenges and prioritize where the focus on recovery efforts needs to be, Polgar said.

"We are looking to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people," he said.

People can help reduce the stresses on emergency responders by having an evacuation plan for their homes in an emergency and having basic disaster supplies on hand such as canned foods, water and a first aid kit customized to the residents' specific needs.

As a general rule, the minimum water requirement is one gallon per person per day for drinking. That does not include other water needs such as washing hands, Polgar said. Other items might include a flashlight, batteries, cash, any medicines (like for blood pressure or diabetes), pet supplies, extra clothes, blankets, fire extinguisher, bleach and books.

Also be aware of items not strapped down or vulnerable to damage in an earthquake. Even knowledge of those items can save lives, he said. In the 1994 Northridge earthquake, non-structural hazards, such as light fixtures and items on shelves, killed 67 people, Polgar said.

Motivational and safety speaker John Drebinger, standing, uses a little magic to make a point about how people can become distracted.Motivational and safety speaker John Drebinger, standing, uses a little magic to make a point about how people can become distracted. Those distractions can make people less aware of what is happening around them and make them more prone to safety mishaps. (NASA Photo / Tony Landis) Next up was safety and motivational speaker John Drebinger, who has recently shed 100 pounds as part of his personal commitment to health and safety.

Aside from people taking responsibility for their own safety, Drebinger also said people need to look out for each other.

"We don't want people learning from experience about safety," he said.

As an example of the distractions all around people, he managed to take a wristwatch off of Dennis Hines, Dryden associate director for programs. Hines was assisting Drebinger with a magic trick when the distractions allowed for the watch to be acquired.

When driving, he said to assume that other drivers are distracted and advised taking precautions such as giving them a bit more room from bumper to bumper.

"You can predict the future by observing the world around you. A dented-up car may be the best a person could afford, or it might be they bought it new and the dents are a sign saying, 'I can't drive,'" Drebinger said.

If a person observes something unsafe, they should "make a difference and do something," he said. Asking a person if they want you to look out for their safety is one way to limit the potential discomfort of taking that step, Drebinger said.

Distractibility in creating safety risks was a concern of Robert Dismukes, chief scientist for aerospace human factors at Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

"Prospective memory is a new area of study of what we intend to do, but don't," he said.

One way to avoid the challenge is by creating cues to remember. Sometimes a location, like an office, can be a cue to do something. Other times different cues, such as writing a note, are required, Dismukes said.

"Distractions and interruptions are all around and cell phones are a good example. Cell phones are as dangerous to drivers as drunk driving. People hit people, veer out of the lane, or rear end the car in front of them because of cell-phone distractions," he said.

Multitasking is another distraction. Research has found that multitaskers are unfocused and are more likely to make an error.

Hindered by a pair of distortion glasses, Mark Dickerson, right, finds it difficult to walk a Driving-Under-the-Influence line as demonstrated by California Highway Patrol officer Edward Smith.Hindered by a pair of distortion glasses, Mark Dickerson, right, finds it difficult to walk a Driving-Under-the-Influence line as demonstrated by California Highway Patrol officer Edward Smith. (NASA Photo / Tony Landis) Rounding out the slate of speakers was Edward Smith, a California Highway Patrol officer based in Mojave.

CHP officers are concerned with enforcement, education and engineering. Enforcement is obvious and educating people on laws is self-explanatory, but the engineering area of the job might not be as commonly known, he said.

Smith explained that traffic fatalities might have some common threads and CHP officers help work with other offices to identify and fix areas that have proven to be problematic for drivers.

"We are not just involved in writing speeding and seatbelt tickets," he said.

The California Highway Patrol also assists other law enforcement agencies in gang and drug enforcement and as many as 3,000 CHP officers can be mobilized in 24 hours if needed for a state emergency such as an earthquake.

Smith also reinforced the cell-phone-distraction theme, saying that people need to reduce distractions when they are behind the wheel by paying attention to road closures and refraining from eating, putting on makeup and avoiding drowsiness behind the wheel. Those distractions can be as dangerous as drunk drivers.

Seatbelts are a major area of enforcement, Smith said. A key reason is illustrated in 13 recent traffic deaths in the immediate area; nine of those were attributed to victims not wearing their seatbelts.

Concerning drunk driving, he said there were 1,355 deaths in California in 2009 and more than 28,000 injuries. The average first-time offender also can expect fines and insurance premium increases of more than $13,000.

Regardless of a Dryden employee's location, the featured speakers shared one idea - pay attention to what you're doing and keep an eye out for each other.

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