Tuesday, February 8, 2011

!!! Fire Drill at National Alabama !!! or Murphy's Law at Work

We all know Murphy--he's that unlovable Irishman who makes sure "if it can go wrong, it will." Apparently Murphy has been working overtime at National Alabama, aka the Barton Rail Car Plant. Yesterday we presented three hypothetical murders; today we'll present a hypothetical fire...at the Shoals' largest hypothetical employer. Doesn't the phrase "hypothetical employer" really suit National Alabama?

After a fire at the Barton facility in August 2009, you know the manufacturing plant is on its toes to prevent any major recurrence...or at least it should be. We would think unannounced fire drills would be standard at National Alabama, the fallen star in the RSA's crown, so let's take a look at one.

The alarm sounds; employees scramble. Is is a drill or is it real? The smell of smoke wafts through the mile-long plant--it's real. Trained workers reach for the more than 50 fire hoses fitted strategically around the plant, but something's wrong. The hoses aren't there. Even worse, it's rumored they were tossed into a dumpster in one of the plant's routine renovations...this in a plant that could be considered unused...feel free to smile at that one.

That's right. Apparently over the two-week Christmas break all the fire hoses were removed from the building. Did someone think they weren't needed? After all, what in the mammoth plant would be highly inflammable? According to our source, plenty.

Among the highly combustible materials at National Alabama are paint, solvents, and cutting oils (all by the barrel full). Since welding is involved in rail car manufacture, there are also various compressed gases...and if the hypothetical fire should reach the ceiling? The roof is made of plywood and rubber.

Ah, but you, gentle reader, are saying, "Have no fear. The fire department will save the day." Really? Just which fire department has jurisdiction over Barton. If you guessed Chuck Lansdell's volunteer brigade from Cherokee you are indeed astute at geography.

The Cherokee Volunteer Fire Department, the same fire department that has just had it's fuel allocation slashed, the same fire department that is selling at least one of its trucks. Yes, that same Cherokee Fire Department will be the one to attempt to save National Alabama. Notice the adroit placement of the word "attempt" in the previous sentence.

We have to wonder what Dr. David Bronner would say if his beloved National Alabama burned to the ground. If the fire produces no injuries and the facility is properly insured, he just might breathe a sigh of relief.