Many of our readers wrote or called to comment on the May issue. It was not our intention to show an unsafe working condition. I understand that some readers felt the picture put the industry in the wrong light and I apologize. Here are some comments from our readers, and a response from DMP’s Mark Hillenburg.
Scott Johnson, Johnson Controls, Milwaukee: “We keep our trade magazines in our lobby and I would not want a customer coming in and seeing this cover and getting the wrong impression.”
Steve Goldberg, Alert Security Systems Inc., New Haven, Conn.: “I am very disappointed in your magazine. The training that I now go through with licensing and CEU’s in Connecticut is extensive. Yet you allowed the cover of your magazine to have a homemade ladder. My last CEU was on ladder safety and OSHA approved ladders. The fact that you would embarrass our industry by highlighting a company on a homemade ladder is horrible.”
John Darrah, national account manager, SER, South Lyon, Mich.: “In regards to your May issue, I cannot express enough the disappointment in the front cover shot that you chose to represent your magazine and our industry. The story itself is a great story and the people involved deserve high praise for their effort and for volunteering their time. My comments are not about the story or the people that were involved. My comments are in regards to the message this picture sends out. When this magazine first arrived at our business there were numerous comments about the safety regarding the ladder the installer is working off of, the headphones he has chosen to wear, the lack of hard hat by the installer on the ground, and the unprofessional installation of the cable to the camera itself.”
Mark Hillenburg, product architect, DMP, volunteer and chief organizer of Operation Security Blanket: “The reason that the ladder photo is compelling is because it illustrates the juxtaposition of the culture in Guatemala. The construction here is concrete block filled with rebar and concrete (to withstand the earthquakes in the region). What you can’t see is this orphanage is surrounded by shacks made of whatever the people living in them can find to build them; utter poverty (inset below left). Of course we did not like working with these homemade ladders, but they were everywhere, as the locals build them for their own use. We were also trying not to offend the local workers that were helping us, and it was clear that these ladders had been used for many decades so we were happy to be able to use them.
The coaxial cable running down the exterior of the wall is pre-existing wiring.This was NOT what we were installing. If you look closely you can see the Siamese coaxial that we were running coming from the white electrical box. The wire was run across the top of the roof and drilled down through the eight-inch concrete slab and into this box. This is not what we would typically do or what we preferred, but that was how most of the other wiring (and plumbing) is done there. The hole is later filled back up with concrete and sealed. It is nearly impossible to do much hidden wiring in this environment because of the solid concrete block (filled with concrete) construction. Most of our wiring was run on the surface, but much was in conduit and we obviously tried to install it properly. However we were limited by the available supplies, etc. The headphone that you pointed out was actually connected to our radios that we were using to stay in contact with each other.
Basically nothing we saw while we were in Guatemala would be legal in the U.S. From the way they ride on buses, to the roads, to the electrical power. If you have not had the privilege to go and work out of the U.S. in a third world country I would encourage you to take any opportunity that you can. It is truly a life-changing experience.
Lastly, I would challenge all that if you feel this strongly about the safety of this ladder, I can give you the contact information for the Orphanage, and I’m sure they would love to accept a donation where they could purchase some proper new ladders.
I appreciate you taking the time to write to SD&I magazine and I hope that you find this explanation understandable and reasonable. I would be happy to talk to anyone further or I have (hundreds) of other pictures and I love talking about this project.”