Saturday, July 24, 2010


Today’s teeth-gnashing news story is that workers on the Deepwater Horizon apparently turned off the electronic alarm on the rig at night so that it wouldn’t go off and wake them up.


I’ve done the same thing with a smoke alarm in my house, so I probably shouldn’t throw stones, but gosh, this is just a bit, as my mom used to say, beyond the pale, isn’t it? I mean, why have an alarm system if you’re just going to disable it? It reminds me of cyclists I sometimes see—usually students around campus at the UW—who are carrying their bike helmets on their handlebars. I myself am not totally a helmet-Nazi, but it’s always seemed to me that—as long as you’ve got it—you may as well wear it on your head. Carrying it seems more trouble than just using it; seems similar in the case of the Deepwater Horizon’s emergency alarm: as long as it was there, wouldn’t it have made more sense just to let the thing run?

Again, though, I can certainly understand the impulse; sleep is important and you don’t find me, for example, jumping out of bed in the middle of the night whenever I hear a car alarm that might be mine. In fact, I’d be perfectly happy if the factory-installed alarm in my own automobile were removed; it never goes off except accidentally and so even if someone were breaking in to the vehicle, I’d never suspect it; consequently, the alarm is a good as useless and wouldn’t be missed were it not there.

So it’s not that I don’t get why the engineers on the oil rig turned off the alarm; still, the consequence of my car alarm being ignored is little more than a rifled-through glovebox and maybe some stolen CDs; seems a little different than preventing the worst environmental catastrophe in our country’s history.

It’s just too much; wake me when it’s over.


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