Thursday, July 28, 2011

FAQ: Who Packages the Whistles?

This doesn't actually have much to do with safety, but I thought I'd share it anyway...

Earlier today, I was forwarded an email from Lafayette Industries, the company that packages the Storm and Windstorm whistles. It has been almost twenty years and over three million whistles since we first started worked with Lafayette, so they sent over some thank-you cards. They are sincerely heartfelt, really quite touching, and answers the question that’s crossed everyone’s mind at one time or another: who packages the whistle?

Lafayette Industries is a local, non-for-profit “affirmative industry” that is dedicated to providing employment opportunities to those with disabilities.  Founded in 1975, Lafayette began with only sixteen employees, and has since expanded to two locations, employing over three hundred and fifty people.  Such “affirmative industries” are prevalent in Missouri, and currently employ 7500 people who would not normally be able to enjoy the workplace community. Lafayette Industries is dedicated to fostering this community, and hosts a variety of events through the year, including a Valentine’s Day Dance and a trip to see the Cardinals play at Busch Stadium.

Grants from the government typically only cover ten to twenty percent of the operating budget, so Lafayette Industries is left with the challenging task of generating high-quality products in order to retain their clients, while keeping the workload accessible to as many workers with disabilities as possible. By focusing on training “to increase employee’s skills, knowledge, and versatility,” Lafayette has maintained their high standards of quality, and have proved themselves to be a fiscally-responsible non-profit.

In her note accompanying the photographs, Ms. Van Berkel wrote that the All Weather Whistle Company has “provided countless hours of employment for our employees with disabilities.” Everyone here at All Weather Safety Whistle Company is proud to support non-profits in the St. Louis area, and we look forward to our next three million whistles being packaged by the lovely folks at Lafayette Industries.

Lives Saved by the Storm Whistle: Acacio Edition

On the afternoon of December 19th 2006, Jose Paulino Acacio was scuba-diving with three friends near the Berlinga Grande island, off the coast of Portugal. Around four pm, the men had surfaced, and began to swim towards the Damoisa, their rented boat. A swift rip current suddenly overtook the divers, pulling them fiercely into the depths. One companion clung to a buoy, and the other managed to scramble aboard the Damoisa. Acacio was pulled under, and did not emerge.

The Damoisa picked its way around the island of Berlinga Grande, hollering for Acacio, to no avail. The Portuguese coast guard (ISN) was called, and Jacino Neves, captain of the nearest ISN vessel, hurried to the island. He and his crew circumnavigated the island for three hours, until low fuel forced them to turn back to the port of Peniche.

Around ten-thirty that night, Neves received a call from several biologists, who had been doing research on the island of Farilhão, about six miles away from Berlinga Grande. They had heard what sounded like a whistle coming from a grotto on the shoreline. His vessel refueled, Neves hurried to Farilhão Island, where he found Acacio lying in the cave. He was blowing the Storm whistle.

Acacio was quickly transported to the hospital, where he was treated for severe hypothermia and dehydration. Despite being lost for over seven hours, the diver made a full recovery, and credited his rescue to the Storm Whistle, which supplied him with a voice when he was too weak to yell.

Pretty amazing, right? And the story dovetails perfectly with our newest podcast on rip currents.

Be careful out there, everyone!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How Exactly DO You Protect Your Phone from Hackers?

A few weeks ago, I honestly didn’t think it was possible for someone to hack into your voicemails. I mean, I carry my phone in my pocket everywhere I go—surely there isn’t some magical way that a crook (or a sleazy journalist—no offense, sleazy journalists) could break into my phone.

Well, there is a way. Apparently. So, IS there a way to keep your phone from being hacked? 

Google-ing “how to prevent someone from hacking your phone” pulls up several thousand articles, so I’ve picked them over and pulled out the best pieces of advice:
  • If your password is still the default one, CHANGE IT. 
    I know, I know. You’re not a celebrity or a politician or a CEO, so why bother changing your password from whatever default one the phone company gave you? I’d bother. It takes but a second, and a quick Google search will give you step-by-step directions specific to your phone.
    • Some passwords are much more common than others. Crooks will try those first.
    According to Business Insider, the top ten phone passwords are 1234, 0000, 2580, 1111, 5555, 5683 (spells "LOVE"), 0852, 2222, 1212, and 1998 (?).

    I’d also add to this list your birthday, birth year, or address—that sounds a bit paranoid, but better to be safe than sorry. The rumor around town is that some phone companies won’t even let you program a code with only one numeral (1111, 2222, etc.), since they’re so common.
    • If you notice anything suspicious, change your passcode!
    By "anything suspicious," I mean not receiving messages, messages deleting themselves, etc. If a friend  just SWEARS they left you a message, but you don’t have any record of it, then someone might be messing around with your voicemails. Or your friend’s just making stuff up. One of the two.

    And the last piece of advice I found was...
    As John Fitzsimmons on reports:

    Alternatively, it is even thought the private investigators paid sources at CTI, the accounts company which held the accounts information for all the major phone companies except O2, to tell them the pins of celebrities. This is why victims like Sienna Miller - who reportedly changed her Pin hundreds of times - still got hacked.

    I feel like this is increasingly becoming the answer to these safety questions. You can’t. The moral of the story is that you’re relying on a password to keep your voicemails safe. If, say, the phone companies are SELLING ACCESS TO YOUR PASSWORD, then you can change it as many times as you like, a la Sienna Miller, and be no better off. 

    Be careful out there, folks--the best way to keep your voicemails entirely secure is by prompting deleting any sensitive messages. 

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Keeping Your Dogs Safe in Summer

    Dr. Wright, Storm whistle inventor and high-school chemistry teacher, and I have been doing a video podcast for the last few months. We discuss various scientific phenomena and why they occur, and then I edit a silly video together, usually featuring an animation I made in Microsoft Paint.

    Last week's episode seemed pretty relevant to this safety blog, so I thought I'd post it here:

    Spread the word, everyone: don't shave your huskies!

    Mission Statement