Why to be prepared in advance
If your Saturday started off with a bang last week, you weren’t alone.
On September 16th at 7:01 am, the Lashkowitz building in downtown Fargo was imploded after serving as low-income housing for the local area since 1970.
Thousands of people lined the Red River dike and surrounding area to watch this rare sight. After standing for over fifty years, the entire building was reduced to rubble in less than ten seconds.
The blast was made up of five dynamite charges, set on different floors, and thundered the entire area. Due to a warm front that moved in overnight, the air pressure didn’t allow sound to move up, so it spread out. The blast was reportedly heard as far away as Horace and Sabin, even out to Hawley, Minnesota, twenty-nine miles away!
I was thrilled at the opportunity to watch the implosion from close-up. I was amazed at the crowd that had turned out so early on a Saturday morning. Stationed on the dike near the Midtown dam in downtown Fargo, we had a clear view of the event.
And so did the thousands of people right along with us. Across the Red River, the Moorhead side was also crowded.
Everyone turned out to see what may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I was shocked at how ill-prepared everyone seemed. I would like to make it clear once again that this was not an ordinary demolition – this was planned for years, an implosion of a twenty-two story concrete building, and an evacuation had been issued for those who lived in surrounding buildings.
The implosion itself set off car alarms, broke six windows, was heard nearly thirty miles away, had been expected to shatter windows, and set off a dust cloud that coated everything for blocks around. And yet, despite multiple warnings issued, people turned up without any ear, eye, or face protection. Not only that, they brought out little kids and pets!
According to the CDC, hearing loss is “irreversible”, meaning that once ears are damaged, there is no cure. Sound is measured using decibels (db). A normal conversation measures at around 50-65 db. Anything above 85 db, and the CDC recommends wearing ear protection. One gunshot can hit 150 db, and this explosion was enough to shake an entire city and the surrounding area for miles around.
The American College of Emergency Physicians published an article regarding what can happen if someone comes in contact with dust from a building collapse. The article mentions that the dust can “combine with saliva and mucus in the airway forming concretions that reduce airway circumference and obstruct airflow.” Even if only the amount inhaled is not enough to harm airways, a cough can set in the lungs and last for days to weeks. Wearing a mask reduces the amount of dust inhaled significantly.
The CDC released a study done by the WTC Health Program regarding the survivors of 9/11 and the way the dust impacted these individuals. Asthma and sleep apnea were among main side effects. While one implosion on a much smaller scale is much less significant in comparison to the tragedy of the Twin Towers, it is still something to consider, especially if you find yourself in a similar situation later on.
In retrospect, after watching a few news stories, I did see more people with earplugs than I originally remember after viewing a few news stories covering the implosion. But even so, I wore earplugs with earmuffs and that didn’t feel like enough. The amount of people with facial coverings was even smaller.
Prior to the blast on Saturday, news outlets had warned potential spectators to take precautions if they planned to watch. Ear and eye protection was advised, as well as masks to keep the dust out of your mouth and nose.
If there wasn’t a lot of ear protection, the amount of people who thought ahead to bring a mask was even fewer. I’ll admit, at first, I didn’t think that a mask would be extremely necessary. But, if you have seen the video footage or were there yourself, you would probably understand that I was relieved to have it.
It was amazing to watch a piece of Fargo history. But it is also a lesson to take away. Before walking into a situation that you aren’t familiar with, do your research. Think it through and at least take the warnings into some consideration. For a blast heard for miles around, and enough dust to make visibility slim in the area, earplugs and masks were some of the best investments to bring along.
This can go for anything. If you are planning on being outside all day, bring a jacket in case of rain or if the weather turns cold suddenly (especially in North Dakota!) Rain in the forecast? Bring an umbrella, even if you don’t think that you’ll need it.
My mom is one of the most prepared people you will ever meet. We never need to worry about having anything on a family outing, because I guarantee, it’s in her purse.
Ibuprofen? Check. Bandaids? Check. Soap? Check. Gum, extra bags, Kleenex, comb, hand sanitizer, paper, and assorted pens? Check all the above.
It never hurts to be prepared. You don’t need to go overboard, but a little anticipation can go a long way.