1. #1
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    Here, There, Everywhere

    Exclamation Reasons to always conduct a search

    I know there are alot of Departments that don't have Truckies responsible and accountable for search, or they just assume there is no life hazzard unless someone tells them there are people trapped. Some only have the IC assign search as the IC sees fit. This article shows you never know who might be inside. Have it assigned to a company every time. Always try to conduct a search. Even if that means just forcing entry on every door and searching 15 ft in, do it, someone might be in there.

    New York Times
    June 18, 2004
    Workers Say Late Shifts Often Mean Locked Exits

    David Sandoval, who cleans the floors of the Met Foods Supermarket in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, walks in through the front door most evenings around 8:30. But when the gates come down an hour later, he says, the door is locked, and he is unable to leave until the manager comes in the next morning.

    Zeferino Arenas Abundez, who scrubs and waxes floors at a Pioneer supermarket in Clinton Hill, says much the same thing happens to him most nights.

    Indeed, he said that when smoke set off the fire alarm at one supermarket he used to clean in the Bronx, firefighters had to saw through a large lock to get in.

    Interviews with janitors, state officials and local organizers who work with immigrants indicate that the experiences of these men and many others are part of a hidden threat in dozens of stores across the city, where concerns about theft trump worries about the fate of workers.

    To prevent workers from stealing merchandise, they say, many stores padlock their rear fire exits, even as the front doors are sealed behind steel gates.

    Investigators with the New York attorney general's office say they have found evidence that the practice is not uncommon, and will recommend that the New York City Fire Department look at the Pioneer store as well as a C-Town store in Williamsburg. The Fire Department said it was illegal to lock in workers with no avenue for escape, and a spokesman said the department would examine the allegations.

    The Fifth Avenue Committee, a community group in Brooklyn that has helped immigrants for years, says it has taken similar accounts from 11 immigrants who work in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx who say much the same thing goes on at some of the most familiar groceries in the city. The group has identified more than 30 stores that lock cleaning workers in at night.

    "I had no way out anywhere," said Mr. Arenas, who said he had worked in six supermarkets where he was locked in. "There was a fire exit, but the doors are sealed from the inside or the outside. I get worried because if there's a fire, you're stuck inside."

    Several store managers said they did not know what the workers were talking about. Stanley Sorkin, a spokesman for Alpha 1 Marketing, which handles marketing for the C-Town chain, said he had never heard of lock-ins at its stores, adding that all C-Town stores were owned and operated independently.

    "It doesn't sound like sound business practices," Mr. Sorkin said. "We urge all of the stores to maintain sound safety practices."

    A woman who answered the phone shortly after 4 p.m. yesterday at the Pioneer store said that the manager had gone home for the day and that there was no one to respond.

    Bo Kim, the manager of the Met Foods store where Mr. Sandoval works, acknowledged in a telephone interview that his late-night cleaner was locked in. But he challenged Mr. Sandoval's assertion that the fire exit was locked.

    David Billig, a spokesman for the New York City Fire Department, said that he had not heard of the allegations, but that the department would look into them. He said it made regular inspections, but did not know how widespread such lock-ins were.

    Calling the practice illegal, he said, "Obviously, we would not support locking people into places like this."

    The allegations by cleaning workers in New York are similar to those of many late-night Wal-Mart workers, who have said that they are locked in and told not to use the fire exit except during a fire. Wal-Mart officials have acknowledged that the company locks in workers at about 10 percent of its 3,500 stores. Late last year, Wal-Mart said it had taken steps to ensure that locked-in workers could get out in an emergency.

    According to the late-night cleaners, they arrive - sometimes by themselves, sometimes with a partner - shortly before a store closes, often being paid $60 a day for 10 or 12 hours of work. The storefronts are shuttered by pull-down metal gates, and the back doors, often padlocked during the day, remain locked.

    They say the store managers have told them they do this to keep out robbers and to prevent theft by the workers. At some stores, the workers are told the combination for the locks, as was Mr. Arenas after the episode with the Fire Department.

    Another cleaner, Ignacio Saldaña, said he often developed headaches and became dizzy while using floor-cleaning and stripping machines powered by propane tanks. "One night about five months ago I got really sick and started to throw up," he said in Spanish. "I really wanted to leave the store, but I couldn't."

    Mr. Saldaña and other cleaners said they had gone to the Fifth Avenue Committee to complain that the cleaning contractor who employed them was not paying them time and a half for overtime. The committee directed them to the attorney general's office, and when investigators in that office began interviewing the janitors, they said they were surprised to hear about the lock-ins.

    Patricia Smith, chief of the attorney general's labor bureau, said, "There have been some allegations of no egress, and we plan on contacting the Fire Department every time we get an allegation like that."

    An official from J & J, a cleaning contractor that serves several supermarkets accused of locking in workers, declined to discuss the allegations about lock-ins.

    Mr. Arenas said that he was upset that J & J's owner, Julio Navarro, had not pressed the supermarket to stop locking in the workers after some workers complained to him.

    Artemio Guerra, director of organizing at the Fifth Avenue Committee, said, "It's very clear there is a shared responsibility on the part of the contractor and the store manager for the well-being and safety of these workers."

    Mr. Guerra added, "This is the type of thing that people don't pay attention to until there's a tragedy."

    Gabriel Juarez, 25, an immigrant from Mexico, said that at a supermarket he cleaned in the Bronx, he recently heard some thumping on a back door, making him worry that a burglar was trying to enter.

    "I worry that I will have no place to run if an armed robber comes in," Mr. Juarez said. "In that situation maybe I'd hide in a freezer. And sometimes I think if there's a fire, I'll hide in the freezer."

    Mr. Sandoval, who said he sometimes cleaned six or seven stores each week, sounded confident that he would find a way to survive a fire, even when he was locked in.

    "Sure, I worry a little about a fire, but I'll be able to handle it," he said. "I'll bang on the shutters, and someone in the street will hear me."


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    Whenever I read something like this I can’t help but think that there must be a misunderstanding. Why would a business even consider risking killing one of it’s employees in this day and age? Where is the insurance company, aren’t they inspecting the property that they are insuring? Doesn’t everybody involved have way to much to lose to allow the conditions these reports suggest? It doesn’t seem believable.

    But then.........

    My sister use to work for one of the those fancy ham places. You know the ones, they sell ham for 50 or 60 dollars a piece. Anyway, she told me that the manager locked the front door using a dead bolt lockset and then took the key with her when she went home, leaving the employees (my sister) to clean up and prepare the food for the next day. The employees left through a self locking door in the back of the store. Part of the prep process is to use a propane torch to give the hams that special $50 glaze and that torch is were the problem was. The only exit from building was that self locking door at the back of building, beyond the torching process. So, when the inevitable fire breaks out the only exit is on the other side of the fire. I asked my sister to call the local fire marshal and lodge a complaint, the fire marshal inspected the building and said ever thing met code, I talked my sister into quitting. I haven’t heard if the building has had a fire or not.

    Very scary article FFRED, especially since I’m a trukie. And we do try to do a complete search.


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    January 18, 2004

    Workers Assail Night Lock-Ins by Wal-Mart


    Looking back to that night, Michael Rodriguez still has trouble believing the situation he faced when he was stocking shelves on the overnight shift at the Sam's Club in Corpus Christi, Tex.

    It was 3 a.m., Mr. Rodriguez recalled, some heavy machinery had just smashed into his ankle, and he had no idea how he would get to the hospital.

    The Sam's Club, a Wal-Mart subsidiary, had locked its overnight workers in, as it always did, to keep robbers out and, as some managers say, to prevent employee theft. As usual, there was no manager with a key to let Mr. Rodriguez out. The fire exit, he said, was hardly an option — management had drummed into the overnight workers that if they ever used that exit for anything but a fire, they would lose their jobs.

    "My ankle was crushed," Mr. Rodriguez said, explaining he had been struck by an electronic cart driven by an employee moving stacks of merchandise. "I was yelling and running around like a hurt dog that had been hit by a car. Another worker made some phone calls to reach a manager, and it took an hour for someone to get there and unlock the door."

    The reason for Mr. Rodriguez's delayed trip to the hospital was a little-known Wal-Mart policy: the lock-in. For more than 15 years, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, has locked in overnight employees at some of its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores. It is a policy that many employees say has created disconcerting situations, such as when a worker in Indiana suffered a heart attack, when hurricanes hit in Florida and when workers' wives have gone into labor.

    "You could be bleeding to death, and they'll have you locked in," Mr. Rodriguez said. "Being locked in in an emergency like that, that's not right."

    Mona Williams, Wal-Mart's vice president for communications, said the company used lock-ins to protect stores and employees in high-crime areas. She said Wal-Mart locked in workers — the company calls them associates — at 10 percent of its stores, a percentage that has declined as Wal-Mart has opened more 24-hour stores.

    Ms. Williams said Wal-Mart, with 1.2 million employees in its 3,500 stores nationwide, had recently altered its policy to ensure that every overnight shift at every store has a night manager with a key to let workers out in emergencies.

    "Wal-Mart secures these stores just as any other business does that has employees working overnight," Ms. Williams said. "Doors are locked to protect associates and the store from intruders. Fire doors are always accessible for safety, and there will always be at least one manager in the store with a set of keys to unlock the doors."

    Ms. Williams said individual store managers, rather than headquarters, decided whether to lock workers in, depending on the crime rate in their area.

    Retailing experts and Wal-Mart's competitors said the company's lock-in policy was highly unusual. Officials at Kmart, Sears, Toys "R" Us, Home Depot and Costco, said they did not lock in workers.

    Even some retail industry experts questioned the policy. "It's clearly cause for concern," said Burt Flickinger, who runs a retail consulting concern. "Locking in workers, that's more of a 19th-century practice than a 20th-century one."

    Several Wal-Mart employees said that as recently as a few months ago they had been locked in on some nights without a manager who had a key. Robert Schuster said that until last October, when he left his job at a Sam's Club in Colorado Springs, workers were locked in every night, and on Friday and Saturday nights there was no one there with a key. One night, he recalled, a worker had been throwing up violently, and no one had a store key to let him out.

    "They told us it's a big fine for the company if we go out the fire door and there's no fire," Mr. Schuster said. "They gave us a big lecture that if we go out that door, you better make sure it's an emergency like the place going up on fire."

    Augustine Herrera, who worked at the Colorado Springs store for nine years, disputed the company's assertion that it locked workers in stores in only high-crime areas, largely to protect employees.

    "The store is in a perfectly safe area," Mr. Herrera said.

    Several employees said Wal-Mart began making sure that there was someone with a key seven nights a week at the Colorado Springs store and other stores starting Jan. 1, shortly after The New York Times began making inquiries about employees' being locked in.

    The main reason that Wal-Mart and Sam's stores lock in workers, several former store managers said, was not to protect employees but to stop "shrinkage" — theft by employees and outsiders.

    Tom Lewis, who managed four Sam's Clubs in Texas and Tennessee, said: "It's to prevent shrinkage. Wal-Mart is like any other company. They're concerned about the bottom line, and the bottom line is affected by shrinkage in the store."

    Another reason for lock-ins, he said, was to increase efficiency — workers could not sneak outside to smoke a cigarette, get high or make a quick trip home.

    Mr. Rodriguez acknowledged that the seemingly obvious thing to have done after breaking his ankle was to leave by the fire door, but he and two dozen other Wal-Mart and Sam's Club workers said they had repeatedly been warned never to do that unless there was a fire. Leaving for any other reason, they said, could jeopardize the jobs of the offending employee and the night supervisor.

    Regarding Mr. Rodriguez, Ms. Williams said, "He was clearly capable of walking out a fire door anytime during the night."

    She added: "We tell associates that common sense has to prevail. Fire doors are for emergencies, and by all means use them if you have emergencies. We have no way of knowing what any individual manager said to an associate."

    None of the Wal-Mart workers interviewed said they knew anyone who had been fired for violating the fire-exit policy in an emergency, but several said they knew workers who had received official reprimands, the first step toward firing. Several said managers had told them of firing workers for such an offense.

    "They let us know they'd fire people for going out the fire door, unless there was a fire." said Farris Cobb, who was a night supervisor at several Sam's Clubs in Florida. "They instilled in us they had done it before and they would do it again."

    Mr. Cobb and several other workers interviewed about lock-ins were plaintiffs in lawsuits accusing Wal-Mart of forcing them to work off the clock, for example working several hours without pay after their shifts ended. Wal-Mart says it tells managers never to let employees work off the clock.

    Janet Anderson, who was a night supervisor at a Sam's Club in Colorado from 1996 to 2002, said that many of her employees were also airmen stationed at a nearby Air Force base. Their commanders sometimes called the store to order them to report to duty immediately, but she said they often had to wait until a manager arrived around 6 a.m. She said one airman received a reprimand from management for leaving by the fire door to report for duty.

    Ms. Anderson also told of a worker who had broken his foot one night while using a cardboard box baler and had to wait four hours for someone to open the door. She said the store's managers had lied to her and the overnight crew, telling them the fire doors could not be physically opened by the workers and that the doors would open automatically when the fire alarm was triggered.

    Only after several years as night supervisor did she learn that she could open the fire door from inside, she said, but she was told she faced dismissal if she opened it when there was no fire. One night, she said, she cut her finger badly with a box cutter but dared not go out the fire exit — waiting until morning to get 13 stitches at a hospital.

    The federal government and almost all states do not bar locking in workers so long as they have access to an emergency exit. But several longtime Wal-Mart workers recalled that in the late 1980's and early 1990's, the fire doors of some Wal-Marts were chained shut.

    Wal-Mart officials said they cracked down on that practice after an overnight stocker at a store in Savannah, Ga., collapsed and died in 1988. Paramedics could not get into the store soon enough because the employees inside could not open the fire door or front door, and there was no manager with a key.

    "We certainly do not do that now," Ms. Williams said. "It's not been that way for a long time."

    Explaining the policy, she said, "Only about 10 percent of our stores do not allow associates to come and go at will, and these are generally in higher crime areas where the associates' safety is considered an issue."

    Mr. Lewis, the former store manager, said he had been willing to get out of bed at any hour to drive back to his store to unlock the door in an emergency. But he said many Sam's Club managers were not as responsive. "Sometimes you couldn't get hold of a manager," he said. "The tendency of managers was to sleep through the nights. They let the answering machine pick up."

    Mr. Cobb, the overnight supervisor in Florida, said he remembered once when a stocker was deathly sick, throwing up repeatedly. He said he called the store manager at home and told him, " `You need to come let this person out.' He said: `Find one of the mattresses. Have him lay down on the floor.'

    "I went into certain situations like that, and I called store managers, and they pretty much told me that they wouldn't come in to unlock the door. So I would call another manager, and a lot of times they would tell you that they were on their way, when they weren't."

    Mr. Cobb said the Wal-Mart rule that generally prohibits employees from working more than 40 hours a week to avoid paying overtime played out in strange ways for night-shift employees. Mr. Cobb said that on many workers' fifth work day of the week, they would approach the 40-hour mark and then clock out, usually around 1 a.m. They would then have to sit around, napping, playing cards or watching television, until a manager arrived at 6 a.m.

    Roy Ellsworth Jr., who was a cashier at a Wal-Mart in Pueblo, Colo., said he was normally scheduled to work until the store closed at 10 p.m., but most nights management locked the front door, at closing time, and did not let workers leave until everyone had straightened up the store.

    "They would keep us there for however long they wanted," Mr. Ellsworth said. "It was often for half an hour, and it could be two hours or longer during Christmas season."

    One night, shortly after closing time, Mr. Ellsworth had an asthma attack. "My inhaler hardly helped," he said. "I couldn't breathe. I felt I was going to pass out. I got fuzzy vision. I told the assistant manager I really needed to go to the hospital. He pretty much got in my face and told me not to leave or I'd get fired. I was having trouble standing. When I finally told him I was going to call a lawyer, he finally let me out."

    One top Wal-Mart official said: "If those things happened five or six years ago, we're a very large company with more that 3,000 stores, and individual instances like that could happen. That's certainly not something Wal-Mart would condone."
    Last edited by outoffocus; 06-18-2004 at 01:45 PM.

  4. #4
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    Looks like things haven't come very far since the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

  5. #5
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    New York, NY: The city so awesome, they named it twice!


    I want to step off the topic of workers being locked in a store overnight, but back on the highly important subject of always doing a search for life.

    I remember a training video I saw which featured a fire (someplace out on Long Island, I believe) in a bi-level private dwelling. This dept. seemed to have a good turnout and fairly timely response. It was a sunny afternoon and there was a fire going in one room of this house. There was a decent amount of smoke. In the video, you see companies arrive, start an attack, and then you see the fire darken down and finally be extinguished. Plenty of manpower were on scene, and if I recall correctly, a bunch of guys are standing around doing nothing.

    Anyway, the fire is out, guys are high-fiving each other, thinking they did a good job, when all of a sudden there is a commotion and yelling. Now, 15 minutes or so after they arrive, someone stumbles across a body laying on the floor. They drag him out and try in vain to do CPR. If a couple guys had just done a search before or at the same time as the attack on the fire, they could have pulled him out in time to save his life.

    Just because it was the daytime didn't mean no one was home sleeping. Searching for life wasn't even considered by these guys and I'm sure it still haunts them to this day.

    I saw the video twice, the second time several years after my first viewing. By the repeat viewing, you want to scream through the TV at these guys and just say get up to that bedroom...NOW!

    Do a search for life...EVERY TIME.

  6. #6
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    Originally posted by UsingAllHands

    Anyway, the fire is out, guys are high-fiving each other, thinking they did a good job, when all of a sudden there is a commotion and yelling. Now, 15 minutes or so after they arrive, someone stumbles across a body laying on the floor. They drag him out and try in vain to do CPR. If a couple guys had just done a search before or at the same time as the attack on the fire, they could have pulled him out in time to save his life.
    Is this the video where they stand around for 5 minutes holding uncharged hoses and watching the fire before they decide to attack? And then they attack it from the exterior when it is basically a room and contents fire? If so, the victim was found out in the hallway outside of the room and away from the flames. And I think it was the Chief that brought the victim outside, but don't quote me on that. That was the most aggrivating video I have seen yet.

  7. #7
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    New York, NY: The city so awesome, they named it twice!


    Originally posted by 0ptical42

    Is this the video where they stand around for 5 minutes holding uncharged hoses and watching the fire before they decide to attack? And then they attack it from the exterior when it is basically a room and contents fire? If so, the victim was found out in the hallway outside of the room and away from the flames. And I think it was the Chief that brought the victim outside, but don't quote me on that. That was the most aggrivating video I have seen yet.

    Yeah, that sounds about right.

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