According to the KVAL.com story, (Aug. 21, 2013) “Warning: Historic cemetery ahead:”
The safety signs are intended to warn visitors that historic gravestones can be unstable. If the heavy stone monoliths fall, injuries or even deaths can occur, the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries said. "The Commission tries to focus on practical services and programs for historic cemeteries." noted Commissioner Dirk Siedlecki. "This simple sign will remind people to use caution both for safety and for preservation of the markers."
Signage is important, obviously, but is simply the first step toward a lasting solution. I got to thinking about how to rile up the public enough so that money would be spent shoring up our cemetery monuments so they wouldn’t fall on people and kill them. Normally, if enough people die, something gets done. However, no one seems to be jumping up and down about the safety issues in our cemeteries. Maybe Ralph Nader needs to get involved.
|1971 - "Danger in Our Hospitals"|
Oddly, I owe my livelihood to Ralph Nader. Currently I am a Clinical Engineer in an academic medical center in Philadelphia, but I began my career as a “Biomedical Equipment Technician.” This job classification was a direct result of something that Nader brought to the public’s attention. One of Nader’s alarming consumer alerts was published in the March 1971 edition of the highly-respected technical magazine, Ladies' Home Journal. To this I owe my livelihood. The issue carried the article, "Ralph Nader's Most Shocking Expose," in which he claimed, "At least 1,200 people a year are electrocuted and many more are killed or injured in needless electrical accidents in hospitals."(Ref.)
|A fallen, thousand-pound headstone|
See the analogy to the falling headstones yet? To warn unsuspecting citizens of the potential hazards in cemeteries is one thing, but shoring up the monuments and headstones to ensure stability should be the next step. Not only that, but the manufacturers of these grave markers should be required to design them with a greater emphasis on safety. As I said in the “Man Killed by Falling Headstone” blog, our forefathers may not have expected that the ground would shift, that vandals would push headstones off their bases, or that earth tremors would happen – but we know that now! So why would we not secure new monuments with new technologies? One of the more obvious techniques - pinning headstones to their bases with metal rods - has proven to not be a viable long-term solution, for reasons that my Facebook Friend, David Gurmai points out:
|Pin holes in the base of a fallen marble headstone|
|A fallen, thousand-pound stone that nearly claimed a woman's leg.|
The thousand-pound headstone pictured above nearly claimed a woman's leg when it fell on her. Unprovoked, it simply fell over as she walked by. Notice the off-level base. It took six men to lever the stone off her leg. Luckily, the ground was soft and gave a bit, so she did not lose her leg. She has internal pins keeping it together. I witnessed this calamity. You only have to see such a thing once to become a believer in cemetery safety.
So while it pays to be cautious around cemetery monuments, perhaps the monument manufacturers and stone carvers can incorporate new (or even ancient Greek) safety methods in their future designs. The Greeks used iron clamps to hold the Parthenon marble pieces together, but sealed the joints against moisture with molten lead. Molten lead being rather toxic, maybe non-metallic rods can be used to hold headstones to their bases? As an analogy, automobile manufacturers not only strive to make vehicles pleasing to the eye, but they also constantly improve the safety of the vehicles. True, certain aspects of this industry are government-regulated, but hey, if that’s what it takes to design safer cemeteries, so be it. Now if you will excuse me, I must go and see if Ladies' Home Journal is still in publication ...
References and Further Reading:
Ladies Home Journal 3: 176–179.