Wednesday 31 October 2012

The Halloween Window Cleaner

A Halloween story: The mystery of the ghostly handprint By John R. Schmidt - April 18, 1924 was a Friday. At 7:30 in the evening, a passerby noticed smoke coming from Curran Hall, a massive four-story brick building at 1363 South Blue Island Avenue. The man ran to the corner fire-alarm box and pulled the lever. Two miles to the west, at Engine Company #107, fireman Francis Leavy was washing a window. The call came in and Leavy rushed out with the rest of the company. He told the captain he’d finish the window when they got back.

Chicago firemen at work, 1924.
Five squads converged on Curran Hall. The blaze seemed to be minor. The firemen were getting it under control when one of the outer walls began buckling. Then it collapsed, trapping eight men. The falling wall knocked out electrical power at the site. Portable lighting was brought in, while firemen combed the wreckage for their comrades. But all eight men had been killed. Among the dead was Francis Leavy. It was later determined that Curran Hall had been deliberately torched for the insurance. The building owners were tried and convicted of the crime.

Now for the rest of the story . . . The day after the fire, one of the men at Engine Company #107 noticed the window that Leavy had left half-washed. In the middle of the window was a handprint. The man tried scrubbing it out, but the handprint stayed. From that time forward, so the legend goes, every fireman assigned to Engine Company #107 attempted to remove the handprint. They used water, soap, ammonia and acid; they scraped it with razor blades. Nothing worked.

(Chicago Daily Times)
The ghostly handprint in 1939.
The Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company was called in. My dad was a glazier at PPG, though years later. The way he heard the story, PPG applied their strongest chemical solvents to the handprint–and still couldn’t remove it. Was the handprint a ghostly souvenir of the dead fireman? It’s said that Leavy’s thumbprint was obtained from his personnel records, and compared with the print on the window. They matched perfectly. The end of the tale is prosaic. A newsboy threw a paper through the window and broke it. Most accounts say this happened in 1946. But one version claims that the window was broken on April 18, 1944 – 20 years to the day of Francis Leavy’s death.

The face in the window of the White Hart in Ironbridge.
Mystery face appears in 'haunted' pub's window: Drinkers in one Shropshire pub have been left scratching their heads after a series of spooky goings on - including this face appearing on the bar's window. Drinkers in one Shropshire pub have been left scratching their heads after a series of spooky goings on - including this face appearing on the bar's window. Staff and punters at the White Hart pub in Ironbridge might have been accused of drinking one too many ales until one customer snatched this picture on his mobile phone. Bar manager Mike Herbert said there have also been spooky goings on upstairs in the pub's restaurant. The mystery face was only noticed on the window on Wednesday and since then, staff have noticed other peculiar things happening. Mr Herbert said: "We just don't know what it is. "It was noticed on Wednesday and everyone has been trying to guess who it is. One person said it looks like Elvis Presley. "It just appeared on the window and we don't know if it is on the inside or the outside.
We don't want to touch it incase we disturb it either. "Then on the same day, upstairs in the restaurant we noticed something weird on one of the seats. It was only a short time after we saw the face on the window. "It was a strange triangular indent on the seat and when the housekeeper when to clean it off it just disappeared. "Then we went back later and it was there again, so we went to get the camera, but it disappeared again. No one can explain any of this, it's very strange." Mr Herbert added the pub has never seen anything like it before. "No one knows who the man in the window looks like and we have not come across this kind of thing in the past." Mr Herbert had to intervene yesterday when it appeared the face might be destroyed. "We had the window cleaner around and I had to stop him from cleaning that window," he added.

No such thing as ghosts – except the spitting kind: Do you believe in ghosts? The tales of otherworldly events that I am about to relate are not for the faint of heart. If you read any further, it may take you at least five extra minutes to get to sleep tonight. You have been warned (CATHERINE FORTE).
Do you believe in ghosts? The tales of otherworldly events that I am about to relate are not for the faint of heart. If you read any further, it may take you at least five extra minutes to get to sleep tonight. You have been warned.
I was on my first summer home from college. My sister Karen, five years younger, and I were bored, so we took a drive. We headed out into the nearby countryside with no particular destination in mind. After awhile we neared the top of a hill where a small cemetery stood.
“Let’s stop!” Karen said, so we did. It was about 8:30, just starting to hint at getting dark. We started walking around, reading headstones, when Karen spit on a grave. “Karen, don’t spit on graves, that’s disrespectful!” I said in my best big-sister tone of voice.
After walking around some more, we went back to the car. It wouldn’t start. So, we walked down the road about half a mile to where our dad’s friend Mr. Willander lived. He came back with us, and we were all standing outside of the car with the hood up, when suddenly the car started on its own. Then it died again (pardon the expression, ghosts).
Needless to say, we were more than a little spooked. Finally we got it running again, and Mr. Willander followed us home for safety’s sake. Back at home, Karen confessed, “All the kids at school say that cemetery is haunted.” “Well, why did you spit on a grave in a haunted cemetery?” I asked incredulously. We said our prayers with extra sincerity that night.
The kids at school also used to tell stories about hauntings in the school building itself. In the hallways of my small, rural high school were pictures of all the graduating classes dating back to when the school was first built, around 1916. Rumor had it that a kid was helping clean up after school one time, and when he sprayed window cleaner on the picture of the Class of 1918, one of the pictures spit back at him. Clearly, ghosts don’t like you spitting at them, but they feel that they can do it to you. Perhaps ethereal beings feel they have the lock on that particular form of rudeness.

19th century depiction of ball lightning. A new scientific paper, and has also given the first mathematical solution explaining the birth of ball lightning and how it is capable of passing through glass.
Scientist Claims To Have Theory On Mysterious Balls Of Lightning: CSIRO scientist John Lowke thinks he has the mysterious balls of lightning thing figured out, despite himself never witnessing one. Lowke has written a new scientific paper, and has also given the first mathematical solution explaining the birth of ball lightning and how it is capable of passing through glass. Documented sightings of ball lightning have been made across the world for centuries, but no explanation of how it occurs has been universally accepted by scientists. These balls of lightning have been known to form on glass, appearing in homes and even in airplanes.
Previous theories of ball lightning include microwave radiation from thunderclouds, oxidizing aerosols, nuclear energy, dark matter, and even black holes as causes for ball lightning, but Lowke disputes all of these theories. He proposes that the ball lightning is caused when leftover ions are swept to the ground following a lightning strike. After lightning strikes the ground, it leaves behind a trail of charged particles, or ions. In most cases, these positive and negative ions recombine in a split second, and any remaining ions travel down to the ground.
He says this is a result of a stream of ions accumulating on the outside of a glass window and resulting electric field on the other side excites air molecules to form a ball discharge. He said the field gives free electrons on the inside of the window enough energy to knock off electrons from surrounding air molecules, as well as release photons, which creates a glowing ball. “This is the first paper which gives a mathematical solution explaining the birth or initiation of ball lighting,” Lowke told Discovery News.
He said the next step is to use the theory to replicate ball lightning in the laboratory, which could prove to be difficult. One account of ball lightning comes from the 1960s, when a C-133A cargo plane was flying from California to Hawaii. Former Lieutenant Don Smith says he saw two horns of Saint Elmo’s fire appear on the planet’s radar cover, followed by ball lightning inside the cockpit. “It looked as if the airplane had bull’s horns…they were glowing with the blue of electricity,” Lowke told Discovery News. “(It) was driven by ions from the aircraft radar operated at maximum power during a dense fog.” He said about a third of the sightings end in a bang, which may be because the electric field tends to heat the gas making it hotter and hotter.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Window Cleaning News

EU to mull plan to bring non-euro states into bank union: BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union countries will examine a plan this week to allow the ECB to supervise banks in states outside the euro zone alongside those within the currency area, according to an EU document that lays down limits on the central bank's role. Last week, EU leaders agreed to build a new system of supervision led by the European Central Bank, as a step towards a banking union where chiefly euro zone countries would jointly back problem lenders, in a move to underpin the currency. Pictured: Window cleaners at Brussels HQ.

Superstorm Sandy hits the US north-east - in pictures: Superstorm Sandy leaves flooding and fallen trees in its wake, bringing chaos to parts of the states of Maryland, New Jersey and New York. Seawater floods the Ground Zero construction site as pictured above.

To the point: window cleaners working on the fog-shrouded Shard building in London attempt to spell out YMCA.

Award-winning Star photographer Tyler Brownbridge caught images of Windsorites. The effects of Hurricane Sandy are being felt as far west as Windsor. Window washers work high above Pitt Street as they clean the windows at the Windsor Riverside Inn in Windsor, Ont. on Monday, October 29, 2012.

Chemo hastened footballer’s death:  Chemotherapy “hastened” the death of a football-mad 22-year-old, an inquest found. Chipping Norton FC player Shaun Weller died on May 2, two days after beginning chemotherapy for a rare form of liver cancer. The window cleaner, a dad-of-one, died at The Horton Hospital in Banbury after suffering a cardiac arrest. Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter recorded a verdict that Mr Weller’s death was an accident after hearing from medical staff. His family afterwards praised the NHS and paid tribute to a“considerate” son.
Mr Salter said: “It does seem to me that the treatment of chemotherapy hastened the death”. He added: “That is not to say there is any negligence in the treatment. Medical treatment does sometimes result in death or hasten death. “That may be because of some adverse reaction or complication that can’t be anticipated.” In a statement, GP Dr Stephen Quelch said he referred Mr Weller for scans after he complained of chest pains. He was diagnosed with the terminal disease on February 2 and oncologist Dr Kinnari Patel saw him on March 22.
Because the cancer was so rare, further help was sought from specialists at London’s Royal Free Hospital on treatment, she said. Dr Patel said: “Shaun expressed the wish to have anything that might be beneficial, no matter how toxic it was.” She said: “I wonder if some very rare event has happened with chemotherapy that I don’t think we could have foreseen.” But she said the cancer could have “overwhelmed” his body.
Consultant pathologist Ben Phillips said: “If he hadn’t started on chemotherapy he wasn’t likely to have died at that time.” His dad Anthony, mother Charmaine, sister Kim and partner Sally Keen attended yesterday’s inquest in Oxford. The Oxford United fan, from Cotswold Crescent, Chipping Norton, played for the first team of Chipping Norton FC and was dad to Tiana, now three. His mother told the Oxford Mail: “We never felt that anyone was to blame. It never entered our heads.” “He was a considerate young lad. He would always worry about everyone else. “When he was going through his treatment he would always worry about everybody else.”
The family “never wanted to hear anything negative” about his prognosis, she said, adding: “Where there is life there is hope. That is what you have got to believe in.” An August charity football match at his former club featuring former United stars raised £2,000 to support his daughter and Oxford University cancer research. A further cake and coffee event will raise cash for research at Chipping Norton Town Hall on November 7 from 9am to midday.

Tonya Gentle, of Gleam Cleaning Pros, cleans a mirror at Abundant Life Church last week. The business recently partnered with Cleaning For A Reason to offer free housecleaning services to area cancer patients.
Couple helps patients by ‘Cleaning For A Reason’ - When David and Tonya Gentle, the proprietors of Gleam Cleaning Pros, heard someone who works for one of their clients was about to undergo cancer-related surgery, they knew they wanted to help, somehow. Jennifer Wiley, the music pastor at Abundant Life Church, said she began her breast cancer ordeal in the fall of 2011, and with the help of the Gentles, was able to come home after major surgery to a clean home and with a load off her mind. “They were a big, big relief for me, because when I came home from the hospital, I didn’t have to do anything,” said Wiley, 50. “... It was a true blessing.” Gleam Cleaning Pros has been in operation since 2008 and while the Gentles informally offered their cleaning service to Wiley in a time of need, they have recently partnered with the group Cleaning For A Reason to contribute more broadly.
David Gentle said he discovered the group on Facebook, and connected with Cleaning For A Reason last month to assist local residents undergoing cancer treatment. “We can’t offer a whole lot in the curing part, but we can definitely come in and try to relieve some of their pain through taking care of some of their general cleaning,” David Gentle said. “And on our end, it just feels good to help. It’s nice to be able to give back with something you do for a living,” he added. Gentle said that Cleaning For A Reason collects information from patients looking for free housecleaning services, and pairs them with cleaning businesses in their area. Patients need only demonstrate their medical condition, Gentle said.
Gleam Cleaning Pros serves a mix of residential and commercial clients, including some offices of the City of Jackson, and specializes in window cleaning and pressure washing. David Gentle said their service is particularly in demand around the holidays when customers are looking for a deep cleaning ahead of family gatherings. He said he and his wife are hoping to get the message out that they want to help area residents battling cancer with free cleanings. Tonya Gentle noted that when someone battles cancer, it’s an ordeal for the entire family. “When women get cancer — when anybody gets cancer — it’s not just that person going through it, it’s the whole family,” she said. “So to come in, even if it’s just to clean, it really seems to help a lot.”

Middlesbrough 'protector' jailed for harassing OAP: A window cleaner who offered to protect a pensioner from a family who were allegedly "after him" has been jailed for harassment. Philip Robert Sinclair, 39, offered protection to the elderly man after hearing rumours he had sexually assaulted a young girl. But in a bizarre twist, Sinclair has now been locked up after his “protection” took a sinister turn. The pensioner denied the claims but took him up on the offer - giving him £25 for him to do so.
Teesside Crown Court heard yesterday it was in January this year when Sinclair first attended the pensioner’s house. Prosecuting, Olivia Checa-Dover told the court it was there he told him about the rumour and that the family “were going to sort him out”. Sinclair, of Tower Green, St Hilda’s, Middlesbrough, then offered to protect the man. Ms Checa-Dover added that at a later date, the defendant camouflaged himself and hid in a bush to prove how “easy it would be” for the family to get him. At a later date, the elderly man returned home to find a two-page letter from Sinclair who wrote “he had sorted it”.
But Sinclair continued to attend the elderly man’s home, who soon began to have doubts. In interview, the man said: “His attitude changed from being helpful to aggressive very quickly and this frightened me.” On another occasion, Sinclair showed the man a text message allegedly from the girl’s family. Ms Checa-Dover said: “The complainant didn’t believe this was a real conversation and thought the defendant was just trying to scare him.”
The court heard the pensioner eventually had enough when in June this year, Sinclair attended his home twice on the same evening. Ms Checa-Dover told the court Sinclair was “banging on the door for about thirty minutes”. He then returned a short while later, once again banging on the doors and windows. Joan Smith, defending, said Sinclair, who pleaded guilty to harassment, was “trying to help”. She said: “His intention was not to cause harassment but he understands this is what happened.” Sentencing Sinclair, Judge Tony Briggs, said the elderly man was “clearly in a vulnerable situation”. He said: “No court can condone the ill-treatment of the elderly or the vulnerable. You presented a terrifying picture to him.” Judge Briggs jailed Sinclair for 12 months and gave him an indefinite restraining order.

Two workers rescued from 23rd-floor fall - Cleaners’ platform sways heavily in strong winds: Abu Dhabi: Two cleaning workers were rescued from falling from the 23rd floor of a building still under construction in the Khalidiya area in Abu Dhabi, by the Emergency and Public Safety Directorate of the Abu Dhabi Police. The Asian men were trapped on scaffolding which they used while cleaning the building’s exterior. Winds accompanying a sand storm which hit the capital caused the scaffolding to swing heavily. The Central Operations Department at Abu Dhabi Police received a report on the incident, bringing the Al Falah rescue quickly to the site along with an ambulance, according to Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Ebrahim Al Ameri, Deputy Director of Emergency and Public Safety Department.
After clearing the surrounding area to ensure the safety of the workers and pedestrians, Abu Dhabi Civil Defence had to break the glass window where the workers were located, because of the challenges which the wind posed in moving the scaffolding. The two men were transported to Shaikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) where they were examined and cleared as free of injuries and medical complications. Earlier this month, two Indian window cleaners fell to their death from the 15th floor of a building at the end of Al Muroor Road, Abu Dhabi, due to a technical failure in the platform they were using. The men were trapped for four hours before the maintenance cradle they were using crashed to the ground.
Meanwhile, two Asian workers were rescued by Abu Dhabi Police earlier this month after they almost fell from a building on Al Salam Street. The window cleaners were saved from falling 15 stories after the rope supporting their scaffolding suddenly snapped. Rescue workers gave the two men directions to help them steady the scaffolding and prevent it from swinging before they were safely brought to the ground. This came as the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) issued a warning for towering clouds associated with thunderstorm, rain, rough seas, and strong winds along the UAE’s west coast yesterday with poor visibility.

A bright yellow hard hat is among the remnants of the broken platform that killed two window cleaners.
UAE cleaning firm scraps high-rise cradles after worker deaths: DUBAI A high-rise window cleaning company has stopped using maintenance cradles after two of its workers plunged 15 floors to their death. Modern Building Maintenance will start training staff in rope access, which industry experts say is safer. K Sudarshan, 24, and J Raju, 29, were trapped in their cradle above Khalifa Street for four hours before it fell to the ground on October 16. Their bodies were repatriated to the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh on Saturday. ETA Ascon group, which owns the company, will pay each of the dead men's families Dh105,000 - their salary for the next 24 months, as required by law, and a welfare fund contribution of Dh50,000 - and an additional Dh1,000 a month for three years.
After the deaths Abu Dhabi Municipality said the company should have called Civil Defence when the men were first trapped. The incident has been referred to the courts. "We are working on alternative methods of window cleaning without using cradles, which involves maintenance by other agencies," a spokesman for ETA Ascon said yesterday. "We are reviewing procedures and have stopped all window cleaning using cradles since the incident. We have already started sending letters to clients about our new rope access system. It will be implemented in a phased manner, starting right now."
The company tested out a rope system last week on an eight-storey building in Dubai and will soon start a 10-day training course for workers. Rope access, used at buildings such as the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab, is a more secure option for window cleaners working at great heights, the spokesman said. "It is safer than a cradle. The major advantage is that we don't have to depend on equipment provided by another agency. The cleaner goes up and down using his own device and it is under his control. He tests the equipment before using it. There is no machine involved." Cleaning companies rent cradles from maintenance or property-management companies.
Rope access is often used when other methods of reaching the outside of tall buildings, such as cherry pickers or scaffolding, are impractical or too expensive. "Whoever can learn the rope access will be trained. There is a practical test where they will have to demonstrate the skill of using the rope access, their capability in cleaning windows and rescuing people," the spokesman said.
Rope access is said to be statistically safer than using cradles in window cleaning and its use is increasing. "It operates on a two rope system," said Amel Vriesman, regional advisory committee chairman of Irata, the International Rope Access Trade Association. "Each individual is suspended on two independent ropes, a primary and a back-up. Every job is supported with a full rescue scenario, unlike a building maintenance unit which has no back-up system. "Given the challenging building designs in the UAE, rope access is much safer, faster, hassle free and requires less manpower."
Only nine companies in the UAE are Irata certified, although Mr Vriesman estimates that more than 60 use the system. "It helps to reduce fatalities but is still dangerous if not carried out by professionals. It needs a certified company with a certified workforce." Abu Dhabi and Dubai municipalities prefer to deal with companies that have Irata certification but there is no law requiring certification for rope access, Mr Vriesman said.

Jack Craig, owner of Jack's Extreme Cleaning & Restoration in Kansas City, works Friday morning on cleaning a stained glass window at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Independence. The original stained glass windows, dating back to the mid-1800s, last received an extensive cleaning in 1986.

Bringing the life back into art of stained glass (Independence, MO) — For the past couple of weeks, Jack Craig has stood atop a ladder, the radio playing background music, a cross around his neck held close to his heart. On Friday morning, while sitting inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church in a pew, the sunlight shone into the historic Independence church at 611 N. Liberty St. Light inside several stained glass windows, recently cleaned by Craig, showcase his work, while others await their chance for a thorough restoration. “I’m all about the preservation of the art that is there,” says Craig, owner of the Kansas City-based Jack’s Extreme Cleaning & Restoration business. “Then, the community can actually see the beautiful art on the stained glass windows.”
 Craig’s cleaning is extensive. He checks the windows for structural problems or any bad lead. Once his work is complete, which he anticipates finishing up this week, the thorough cleaning will last another 25 to 30 years. The stained glass windows at St. Mary’s date back to the mid-19th century, and they received a layer of Lexan in July 1986, Craig says. Years ago, to protect the stained glass, that layer of Lexan glass was installed for protection. Lexan, which also is used in space helmets and vehicle headlight lenses, among other uses, protects the stained glass windows from hail, rocks and other strong elements. “Basically, I’m cutting off the yellow,” Craig says, “and then I’m polishing it back out. It’s a green solution, too. Our dumps are full of Lexan, and we don’t need no more in the planet. It’s a green way out.”
A Catholic himself, Craig emphasizes that he’s worked on stained glass restoration at churches of different denominations all across the metro region. When Craig started cleaning windows 20 years ago, he noticed different reactions to different kinds of windows. With stained glass windows, Craig taught himself to clean them in a hands-on, experience-driven setting. While the cleaning is extensive, he says being careful is essential since the materials are more than a century old. “They’re beautiful,” he says. “Each and every one of them is different – that’s what makes it so fun.”
While Craig’s business is based out of the Waldo neighborhood in KC, he and his family travel to Independence annually for the Santa-Cali-Gon Days Festival, and he’s looking forward to seeing his work at St. Mary’s for years to come. “That’s kind of a payment in itself,” Craig says. “There’s something about restored art of your forefathers – who did wonderful work – and keeping it alive. It’s really important."

Workers use window-cleaner style platforms, restoring the Hollywood sign on October 26,2012 in Hollywood, California.

Hollywood sign gets first makeover in 35 years, ahead of its 90th birthday next year The operation, which started earlier this month, will take eight to 10 weeks to restore the sign to its bright white glory atop Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills north of Los Angeles, said the Hollywood Sign Trust.  The iconic Hollywood sign overlooking Tinseltown is getting its biggest renovation for 35 years, ahead of its 90th birthday next year. Workers are using window-cleaner style platforms as they strip down the 50-foot tall letters, powerwash the corrugated iron and apply nearly 400 gallons of fresh paint, organizers said. The operation, which started earlier this month, will take eight to 10 weeks to restore the sign to its bright white glory atop Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills north of Los Angeles, said the Hollywood Sign Trust.
The original sign was erected in 1923 to advertise a property development called Hollywoodland, but the last four letters were removed in the 1940s. One of the City of Angels' most beloved attractions, the sign had fallen into disrepair until it was restored in the 1970s after a campaign that saw nine donors pay $27,777 to "adopt" one letter each. It was threatened again more recently when investors who own land surrounding the giant white letters indicated plans to sell the plot to developers. But Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner helped secure the sign in 2010, along with then-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other Hollywood luminaries including Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Although members of the public are forbidden from accessing the area around the landmark -- a sophisticated alarm system including motion sensors has been set up to deter trespassers -- the sign has a grisly history. In 1932, British actress Peg Entwistle infamously committed suicide by throwing herself off the top of the letter H.

Monday 29 October 2012

Hurricane Sandy Will Affect Window cleaners

Residents test the high surf in in Ocean City, Maryland as Hurricane Sandy intensifies October 29, 2012. About 50 million people from the Mid-Atlantic to Canada were in the path of the nearly 1,000-mile-wide (1,600-km-wide) storm, which forecasters said could be the largest to hit the mainland in U.S. history. Click to enlarge.
Many window cleaners are showing concern over Hurricane Sandys advancement in the Eastern States of the U.S. - most cancelling work tomorrow. Updates to window cleaners concerns can be followed here.

Hurricane Sandy’s wrath being felt hours before landfall, forecasted to be biggest storm to hit northeast coast: Late-minute preparations for Hurricane Sandy, the “frankenstorm” set to be the largest hurricane to ever hit the northeastern United States and Canada, intensified Monday as the monster storm shut down transportation, shuttered businesses and sent thousands scrambling for higher ground hours before its landfall.

About 50 million people from the Mid-Atlantic to Canada are in the path of the nearly 1,600-kilometre-wide storm, which forecasters said could be the largest to hit the mainland in U.S. history and will have a devastating landfall. It was expected to topple trees, damage buildings, cause power outages and trigger heavy flooding. “We are certain that this is going to be a slow-moving process through a wide swath of the country, and millions of people are going to affected,” U.S. President Barack Obama said, speaking to reporters from the White House Monday afternoon.

The storm is bearing down nearly directly upon New York City and the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, said Sandy’s full wrath could be felt by 6 p.m. today. The storm surge in New York City from Sandy, which flooded Battery Park Monday morning, has already surpassed that of last year’s Hurricane Irene. “Don’t be fooled, don’t look out the window and say, it doesn’t look so bad,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “The worst is still coming.”

Officials have been stark in their warnings, as their have been more than 60 deaths already attributed to the hurricane, and say it is likely there will be more. “There will undoubtedly be some deaths that are caused by the intensity of this storm, by the floods, by the tidal surge, by the waves. The more responsibly citizens act, the fewer people will die,” Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley told reporters.

Joanne Klineburger, left, and Scott Thomas boarded up her novelty shop in downtown Cape May, N.J., on Sunday. They recycled the pieces of plywood they used during Hurricane Irene.
At New Jersey’s Southern Tip, Dire Forecasts Are Met With Irritation and Defiance (Cape May, N.J.) — Ed Johnston agreed to make only one concession to Hurricane Sandy: He would close his oceanside restaurant three hours early. All right, that is not quite all he did. Mr. Johnston and his two dishwashers brought in the plastic chairs from the patio, stacking them inside for safekeeping. They removed the glass windows that enclose the porch, concerned for the howling winds that were to come. But head to safer ground inland? For Mr. Johnston and some others like him who live around New Jersey’s southernmost point, Hurricane Sandy was at once a nuisance and a curiosity — but certainly not a reason to flee the area. “I’ve been here over 40 years; this is part of living, you know?” said Mr. Johnston, who is an owner of the Cove Restaurant and Seaside Deck.

He showed off a photograph taken of him last year as he stood outside the restaurant during Hurricane Irene, waves crashing before him. This year, he said he would return to his restaurant at high tide to check on the place. “My brother is down in the Dominican Republic right now, and he’s more worried than I am,” Mr. Johnston added. Gov. Chris Christie ordered residents of New Jersey’s barrier islands to leave by Sunday afternoon, and local officials warned of a high probability of flooding and power failures in the area. Many people did leave the area, and business owners fortified their shops, but there was little alarm among the residents who planned to stay.

Mike Keosky, 68, a human resources consultant, also put his Hurricane Irene plywood to use. Putting down his drill, Mr. Keosky pointed to all of his neighbors who, like he and his wife, Norma, were planning to ride out the storm in Cape May. “Last year we went away for two days,” Mr. Keosky said. “When I came back, all I had were a few leaves on the ground.” The weather worsened as the day went on, with rougher seas and gustier winds. But barely an hour before the 4 p.m. evacuation deadline, some businesses were still open. One last slice of barbecue chicken pizza could still be had at Louie’s Pizza, right across the street from the beach. At Sunset Liquors, where the storefront window was covered with plywood bearing the message “No booze for Sandy,” a steady stream of customers stocked up on provisions throughout the afternoon.

Perhaps no one was more defiant than Mike Losness, 31, a sales representative from San Clemente, Calif. — a safe distance from Hurricane Sandy. But Mr. Losness flew to New Jersey because he wanted to surf as the storm hit. “It’s a fun adventure, surfing in a perfect storm,” Mr. Losness said as he stripped off his wet suit after a morning in the water. He was in a hurry to leave Cape May — not to evacuate, but because he and his friends wanted to get to Ocean City, N.J., their next spot to surf, before the authorities shut down access to it.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Familiarity Diminishes Fright Factor

Rusty Liberatore prepares to begin washing windows on a building high above Pittsburgh city streets.
Familiarity diminishes fright factor of ‘creepy’ jobs: Being suspended 200 feet above ground is enough to make many people tremble, but for Rusty Liberatore, the thrill is the reason he started his window washing business. The sight of blood and dead bodies can terrify some people, but it’s just a part of the job for Servpro estimator Tom Apel. And though death usually elicits emotions of dread, sadness and grief, it also presents funeral director Jim Atticks an opportunity to serve the community. Though Halloween is a time to celebrate frightful sights and creepie crawlies, people who regularly deal with scary situations have leaned to manage any fear they might experience.

Fear can take many forms and affect people in different ways, said Jill Fischer, a psychologist at Integrity Psychological Services in Monroeville. Though some people avoid what they fear, others make it their life’s work to try and conquer it, said Fischer, who specializes in stress management. When Liberatore is rapelling down a 20-story building on a tiny wooden platform, his emotions — like his feet — are dangling somewhere between terrified and elated. “I was always thrilled by heights,” he said. “There’s always a sense of fear.”

New employees with his business rappel from the roof of his business as a training exercise, but he said that doesn’t prepare them for a job in downtown Pittsburgh, when they’re swinging like a pendulum 18 stories up, “cooking” in the summer sun. “A lot of them,” he said, “just turn away and say, ‘I’m sorry. This isn’t for me.’” People often tell him that whatever he’s being paid, “it’s not enough.”

New members of the crew start off at about $12 per hour, but there are perks to the job, such as college girls blowing kisses through their dorm windows and clients plastering “thank you” notes to the window. Liberatore — whose Penn Hills-based Liberatore Inc. is a member of the Monroeville Area Chamber of Commerce — admits that while it is a thrill, parts of the job are scary. There’s the fear of being electrocuted by power lines or his harness giving out. He has heard stories of the worst, including a window washer who fell six stories to his death at UPMC McKeesport. Whether it’s six floors or 20 floors, “at that point it doesn’t really make a difference,” he said.

When there’s a messy death — accidental or intentional — someone has to clean up afterward. That’s when Servpro in Monroeville gets a call, and estimators such as Tom Apel, 50, zip up their biohazard suits and masks. “They’re all pretty gruesome, “Apel said of the places he is called to clean. “I really can’t say it excites anybody. That wasn’t why they started working here; (it) just goes along with what we do.” Suicides are the most graphic, but the worst are death scenes that go unnoticed for weeks, he said.

Usually it’s a downstairs neighbor who first notifies the authorities when blood begins to seep through the ceiling. “I don’t want to say they don’t bother me too much,” he said. “Until you actually get there and do it, you don’t know really how you’re going to act,” he said. He remembers the smell of his first job. His supervisor kept a close eye on him that day as he learned on the job. “Every step of the way, it was,‘Are you OK?’” Apel recalls. Friends and family often ask Apel for the gory details but then stop him mid-sentence, he said.
For those people, facing their fear might be a source of entertainment, but for many it can be a by-product of deep-rooted emotional stress, Fischer said.  “Sometimes, when people go through trauma, they’re compelled to repeat it to gain mastery over it,” she said. A single event during childhood can shape what a person fears or what drives them as an adult, she said. For example, a child who sees someone bleeding, surrounded by distressed onlookers, might develop a fear of blood, but a child who sees his father rescue someone who is bleeding might be motivated to become a paramedic, she said.

For Atticks, it was the first dead body he saw as a teenager that eventually led him to become funeral director at Gene H. Corl Funeral Chapel in Monroeville. He was 14 when he helped his father transport a body from a hospital to a funeral home in Harrisburg. “I can still picture the first man I picked up with him,” Atticks said. “It was a shock to me … it makes an impression on you. But it did not bother me.” The science and artistry of cosmetically restoring the body is what first attracted him to the profession as a teen, and throughout his career, he has prepared the bodies of family and friends for viewing. “I feel that’s the last thing I can do for them,” he said. “Why have a stranger doing that when their grandson or son is a part of it? Not everybody can.”

He said preparing the body is easy, but the tough part is consulting with grieving families. Some use humor as a way to deal; others treat the funeral as a celebration. Some, he said, plan the funeral in preparation of an imminent death, to save themselves from the additional stress when it happens. “I’ve had rough ones, and I’ve had some that felt like a party,” Atticks said. Of the last 100 funerals he has directed, he said each one was a little different.

Some fears are less rational, such as the fear of a doctor’s needle — which might explain why, according to the Central Blood Bank, only 5 percent of Americans donate blood each year. “It is a fairly common fear to be afraid of needles and things,” said Megan Schlegel, a conversational marketing expert with the Central Blood Bank. “Needles aren’t my favorite thing in the world, I just have to not look at it when they’re doing it.” Schlegel has learned to work with her dislike of needles.

Liberatore focuses on the thrill of being so high above ground instead of the fear of falling.
And Apel has become accustomed to dealing with gory locations. But his fear of spiders? Well, that’s another situation entirely.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Unsafe Window Cleaner Video Goes Viral

Daredevil window cleaner not good for image of window cleaners.
Bath's daredevil window cleaner with a head for heights: A daredevil window cleaner has been captured on film balancing on a ledge without a safety harness on the third floor of a building in Bath. More than 1,000 people have viewed the Extreme Window Cleaning clip on YouTube, which shows a man working above the Loch Fyne restaurant, at the corner of Milsom Street and George Street. During the three-minute film he is seen to climb out of the top floor window and onto the other side of the stone balustrade, before walking around the outside of the building. Later on he is seen doing the same thing on the level below, but this time walking along the top of the narrow windows - but again without any kind of safety equipment.

A member of staff at Loch Fyne said the incident was being dealt with internally by the restaurant chain’s owners Greene King, and added that they had been in contact with the health and safety team at Bath and North East Somerset Council. B&NES today confirmed it was investigating the incident. It is understood that the floors above the restaurant are occupied by the hotel side of the business, Milsoms, which has a number of rooms available for guests.

Extreme window cleaning (BATH, SOMERSET): An investigation has been launched after a daredevil window cleaner was captured on film balancing on a ledge without a safety harness on the third floor of a city centre building. The YouTube clip, which shows a man working above the Loch Fyne restaurant is being investigated by Bath and North East Somerset Council.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Window Cleaning Super Heroes

Dressed as Spider-Man, Danny Oszaniec, a window washer with American National Skyline, prepares to repel down the outside of Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, surprising patients and their families through the windows as he works his way down. Click to super-size.
Comic book heroes lift spirits, fight grime at Children’s Hospital: The patients at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh were barely awake Monday morning when the first ropes unfurled from the roof 12 floors up. But when window washers clad as superheroes rappelled down the brick facades along Penn Avenue and 45th Street in Lawrenceville, little eyes were wide open.

Caleb Whitaker, 6, of Windber waves to window-washer Rick Boloinger dressed as Spider-Man on Monday morning, Oct. 22, 2012, as Boloinger and a crew of costumed washers from Allegheny Window Cleaning Inc. descended upon Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville. Click to enlarge.
Caleb Whitaker, 6, of Windber raced through a third-floor clinic — and catapulted himself over pint-sized furniture — to ogle Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman as they sprayed and wiped clean the glass panes. Captain America rounded out the comic-book foursome, assembled at no charge, thanks to Allegheny Window Cleaning Inc. of Springdale. “We heard people yelling: ‘It’s Spider-Man!’ When the other ones appeared, it was just kind of amazing,” said Joe Hartnett, 42, of Castle Shannon. His rapt daughter Leah, 6, who accompanied her younger brother, “didn’t quite believe it” at first.

Caleb Whitaker, 6, of Windber gives a high-five to window-washer Ed Hetrick dressed as Superman on Monday morning, Oct. 22, 2012, as Hetrick and a crew of costumed washers from Allegheny Window Cleaning Inc. descended upon Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville. Click to enlarge.
 “It’s a wonderful surprise,” said Hartnett, who joined dozens of gawkers inside and outside the hospital. Many posed for photos with the costumed heroes at ground level. Allegheny Window President Edward Matuizek said the company wanted only to brighten the day for children battling illnesses. Matuizek said the washers improvised to position their safety harnesses around the costumes. “This isn’t about us. This is about them,” said Matuizek, a father of two teenage daughters. “It’s a nice place to work, but emotionally it’s a real tough place to work. You go home and pick your own kids up, and there’s a lot of gratitude there.”

Kids in the ninth-floor waiting area including Caleb Whitaker, 6 of Windber (center) watch window-washer Jim Zaremba dressed as Batman on Monday morning, Oct. 22, 2012, as Zaremba and a crew of super-clad washers from Allegheny Window Cleaning Inc. descended upon Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville. Click to enlarge.
A similar superhero appearance at a British hospital inspired Matuizek’s plan. Allegheny Window Cleaning has washed the windows at the 296-bed UPMC facility since the hospital opened about three years ago, Matuizek said. The firm’s office manager Michelle Matuizek — Edward’s wife — first suggested the costume idea. His initial reaction: “You’re crazy. I’m not doing this.” But Children’s Hospital facilities director Elizabeth Munsch helped nudge the plan along, officials said. Allegheny lined up $800 worth of Broadway-quality costume rentals and four experienced window-washers to wear them for about two hours.

Window-washers from left, Jim Zaremba (Batman), John Morton (Captain America), Rick Boloinger (Spider-Man) and Ed Hetrick (Superman) stand on the helipad atop Children's Hospital on Monday morning, Oct. 22, 2012, before the crew of super-clad washers from Allegheny Window Cleaning Inc. rid the windows of the Lawrenceville hospital of grime. Click to enlarge.
The washers are Rick Bollinger, 46, and Mark Errico, 26, both of Harrison; Ed Hetrick, 36, of Springdale; and Jim Zaremba, 43, of Lower Burrell. “The kids were loving it,” said Errico, suited up as Captain America. “Everywhere we went, they were coming in from different rooms.” He would do it again in a heartbeat, he said. And he might get the chance: Edward Matuizek said the company is looking to make the appearance an annual gig. “On a nice day like this, those kids are locked up in there for — who knows? — months,” Errico said.

Window-washers from top, Rick Boloinger (Spider-Man), Mark Errico (Captain America), Jim Zaremba (Batman) and Ed Hetrick (Superman) rappel down the side of Children's Hospital on Monday morning, Oct. 22, 2012, as the crew of washers from Allegheny Window Cleaning Inc. rid the windows of the Lawrenceville hospital of grime. Click to enlarge.
Quinlan Carney, 4, could get on board with a return engagement. He isn’t a patient, but he locked his eyes on Spider-Man as he gripped his mother’s hand along 45th Street. “He’s going to talk about this forever,” said his mother, Julia Carney, 37, of Harmony.

Spider-Man, suited up and headed down the side of Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis. Click to enlarge.
Spider-Man window washers cheer hospitalized kids: Kids at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis got a Spidey-size surprise last week when they spotted none other than Spider-Man rappelling down the side of the building, with Captain America in hot pursuit. The superhero sighting came courtesy of a few real-life superheroes -- employees of the commercial window cleaning company American National Skyline who wanted to do something nice for the young patients. Rosetta Ford, an administrative assistant in the hospital's environmental-services department, suggested costumes, so Steve Oszaniec, his son Danny Oszaniec, and Jordan Emerson suited up superhero-style, secured themselves in their window-washing safety harnesses, and started their slide down the 12-story building.

 "A great day for window cleaning"

The building's large windows overlook the downtown Memphis skyline and Mississippi River, giving the superheroes a scenic backdrop. As word got around the hospital of an out-of-the-ordinary happening, the kids flocked to windows in their rooms and the family rooms on each floor. As you can see from this vid provided by the hospital, many patients captured the moment with smartphones (a good idea, since last time I told people I saw Spider-Man scaling a building on a Wednesday afternoon, they didn't believe me). And for a real awww, have a look at this closeup NBC News photo of a Le Bonheur patient-Spidey moment. It really says it all.

Some Memphis residents probably looked up and wondered why own their window washers suddenly seemed so ordinary. Click to enlarge.
Window-washers from left, Mark Errico (Captain America), Jim Zaremba (Batman), Ed Hetrick (Superman) and Rick Boloinger (Spider-Man) rappel down Children's Hospital on Monday morning, Oct. 22, 2012, as the crew of super-clad washers from Allegheny Window Cleaning Inc. rid the windows of the Lawrenceville hospital of grime. Click to enlarge.

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