By Jacqueline R. Marshall

President, Local 2187 AFSCME DC47

Many have either heard or experienced what happened at the One Parkway Building 1515 Arch Street. The building operates on a 24 hour, 7 day a week schedule, offering city services to the Philadelphia community in myriad ways.

On Tuesday, April 15, during the early evening hours there were reports of flooding, and emergency crews were called. The labor unions were notified and went into action. First, we sought support from Katherine Black, DC 47 Health & Safety officer. Kathy reached out to Jerry A.  Roseman, MSc.I.H. Environmental Science & Occupational Health & Safety Advisor/Consultant , AFSCME DC 47 Health & Safety. In addition, Local  2187 Union Agent Michael Bonetti and Local 2187 Executive  Board  liaisons and stewards on the affected floors were contacted. Labor requested a walkthrough of building and asked for clarification regarding logistics.

Risk Management responded:   “The Cause- an expansion joint on a hot water riser in the 5th floor failed spilling very hot water onto the floor

Impact- water came across the elevator lobby and spilled down the elevator shafts raining on the top of all of the elevators and damaging the electrical controls.  Water also came onto the areas just inside the double doors at each end of the lobby.  This was addressed quickly and with remediation contractors on-site within six hours of the loss.  Water extraction and dehumidification were quickly instituted and continue.”

Here are the testimonials from our members who were finishing the work of the day:

“Members reported fleeing through emergency stairwells amidst, heavy smoke like fog and water. Visibility into the hallway was difficult. Someone yelled “Oh My God” and then the fire alarm sounded, occurring simultaneously – someone said, “Its water coming in from under the door.”

Running, they were confronted by a tremendous amount of water and the hallway was hot and steamy. They approached the stairwell and when the water hit their ankles, they realized, the water was HOT! Hot water was everywhere. They ran for the stairwell and ran down the steps with hot water gushing after them.

Memories of gathering her things and approaching the door to the hallway attempting to exit, one sister reported, “It was like being part of a scary movie.  I keep trying to find the words to express the feeling during this incident. I keep remembering the windows in the double doors and the fact that we could not see into the hallway. As we ran down the stairs we could hear security urging us to keep coming. They held the door open into the lobby area. Fire rescue was coming in and they urge us to “Keep Moving.” It was a night that I have not been able to forget.”

During the weekend, on Saturday April 19 and Sunday April 20 2014, Labor remained in contact with the City of Philadelphia for status updates and safety checks. On Sunday, April 20, the safety walks for Monday, April, 21, 2014 were confirmed for 8:00 am, with staff from floors and departments who experienced a higher impact of water arriving after the safety check. However, notice from the Environmental Services Provider, reported effective April 18, 2014 , re -occupancy could occur immediately . A safety check by Labor and the Health & Safety team was completed on April 21, 2014. The Labor Safety Team visited all the floors affected by the flood. Members returned to their work locations.

Labor presented inquires regarding the monitoring of moisture and offered cooling options for drying. The procedures were put in place. Some members reported feeling ill. Seven were seen at the Comp Clinic.

It was reported that the reactions may have been caused by the elevated heat and subsequent dry air in the vicinity, a result of the use of drying machines/moisture extractors and large fans.  They added some cooling to the air, to help balance the air quality.

The next safety check with the labor unions occurred on May 12, 2014. A review of water extraction and dehumidification/cooling was conducted. It was noted areas affected are being treated and continued progress will be monitored by labor, along with the Health & Safety team.

The surfaces affected in The One Parkway Building 1515 Arch Street has reopened and the Philadelphia community is being serviced. The human experience and trauma felt by those who were there on the night of April 15, 2014 should not go unnoticed by city leaders and managers. In fact, no trauma should go unnoticed, as an injury to any citizen is an injury to all citizens.

To every citizen/union employee who shows up everyday do insure the city runs; we say, safety matters to us all. Wellness is valued and dignity is essential.

Through the countless personal meetings with union members the point that continues to ring true: The city works because we do!