WACKER employee Lucy Oldfield belongs to the second category. When she started as a lab technician in the elastomers group at Wacker Chemical Corporation in Adrian (Michigan), she soon signed up as a volunteer for the company emergency response team. Why? Oldfield considers and then gives the simplest and most honest answer: “I like to help. That’s how I am.”
She has now headed up the emergency response team in Adrian for some ten years. The team consists of between nine and twelve volunteers who act as first responders before emergency service professionals arrive at the scene – regardless of whether there is a fire, a hazardous fluid has been spilled, or a colleague suffers an allergic reaction, or a medical emergency.
Thankfully, all this doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, these first responders are well equipped. Intensive training prepares them for every sort of emergency situation and new recruits have to be prepared to invest time and dedication as a volunteer first responder. I say to people wanting to become a volunteer first responder to beforehand: “Speak to your boss about the time commitment,” says Oldfield.
Good nerves and a positive, can-do attitude characterize the team members. “We hope for the best, but are prepared for the worst,” the team manager puts it in a nutshell.
And then there is a special category of emergency: tornadoes. Fall and spring are tornado season in the Midwest of the USA, and these severe storms can pack winds that can cause devastating damage. If the alert status changes from “watch” to “warning”, the workforce is mustered to designated assembly locations.
Oldfield and her colleagues in the Adrian Technical Center act as coordinators at these locations and carry out various functions: they conduct a sweep of the building to check that all employees heard the sirens and have gone to their muster areas, and perform a headcount, making sure that everyone is accounted for and no-one is missing.
Stephen Patton, a chemist with Household Care, joined the Emergency Response Team in fall 2012 and was initially a little daunted by the number of emergency situations for which the members have to be prepared. But he is full of praise for the atmosphere among the group: everyone helps each other out and shows great commitment in training for emergency responses month after month.
Once a year, the rescuers also invest in half a day’s team-building exercise. Whether a scavenger hunt or zip lining, it’s always about responding to an unknown situation and reaching a quick consensus on how to respond – as in a real emergency. “It’s good experience,” Patton finds,
especially as practicing flexibility and decisiveness can also be useful job-wise. Lucy Oldfield has long since risen to the position of technical service manager, assisting customers with urgent or pressing queries. It could be an application problem or an idea for a new product. “When I get to work in the morning I have no idea what the day will bring,” she says, and laughs.