WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I RESPOND TO AN EMERGENCY (PART 3: THE FINAL PART)

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This is just a very brief follow-up to the two previous parts of this blog. As I stated at the conclusion of Part 2, “In next week’s follow up to this blog, I’ll make it clear that not every emergency can come out this well, but I’m very proud that this one did”. I was in no way trying to indicate that every accident or incident can be avoided in this manner. There are a myriad of possible outcomes to every situation. In fact, even in this case, I did not complete a site investigation prior to designing the buttress. That means that there are unknown ground conditions. What if there was a very low strength clay layer at some depth below the footprint of the buttress? Might its presence have acted to further destabilize the embankment, even once the buttress was constructed? Of course there was no time for a proper assessment of the embankment, and its foundation soils. We needed to avoid tragedy, and I decided that, based on the information I was provided, that this solution was a good one. Activities and solutions like this have to be very carefully formulated and completed. I should probably thank my lucky stars that I arrived at a solution that was correct. Or maybe it was judgment, knowledge and experience. Let’s stick with luck. At any rate, this was not my only experience of this type of work, but it was certainly one of the most memorable. As a final epilogue to this series of blogs, here is a very brief story. Once we had the buttress design completed, and construction underway, I began my journey back home. I had given very clear, simple and specific instructions to the mine owners and their staff on how to complete the construction of the buttress. I was at the airport, in the international departures terminal, when an announcement came over the PA system. The announcement said, “Mr. Bryan Ulrich, if you are in the terminal, please await a phone call”. I waited. And worried. Many minutes passed by. My plane started to board. I went to the gate agent and let them know that I was awaiting a phone call. Nothing. Waiting. And worrying. Eventually, the gate agent informed me that I only had a few minutes left before they would be closing the boarding door. I waited until the very last moment; probably 30 minutes had passed since the announcement. We departed, and I eventually returned home. The next morning, I contacted the mine to see if it was they who were trying to contact me. It was. I asked them what they had wanted. They said that they had a question, but they had eventually answered their own question. They said that they decided that since this had been my response to every one of their questions, and it would be the response to this one too. I don’t remember their question, but the answer was, “build the buttress”. And they did, and it all worked out.

Next week, I will respond to a reader’s questions.

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