When The Pressure Gets Too Great
By Terry Sutton
Stephens Engineering Consultants
Alright, before I begin this little treatise on pressure I have a question for you. What do Simon and Garfunkel, Blaise Pascal and Wile E. Coyote have in common? Hmmm. Think about that for a minute and we will get back to it.
I want to briefly discuss the ramifications of pressure from a physical perspective and then from a spiritual/emotional one. Physically speaking we all live under pressure. It is multi-dimensioned and constantly with us. Most mechanical tools rely on various forms of pressure to function. Athletic success is directly related to pressure, and leverage. We live under atmospheric pressure, planes fly because of pressure variance. Our cardiovascular systems are predicated on responsive and necessary pressure. Our government and legal systems are based on competing pressures. Musical instruments rely on pressure to produce sound. And we hear because of pressure on our eardrums. You get the idea. In the disaster restoration world most water losses are because of the failure to manage water pressure. When that failure occurs it has to be dealt with to bring all back to balance.
While you are reading this your plumbing system is hopefully handling the water pressure in it. Since the typical water pressure into a home is around 40-60 PSI, your pipes, gaskets, valves and hoses have a constant job to manage that pressure. It was Blaise Pascal (French mathematician, physicist, writer and philosopher) who introduced the concept of force. Pressure times area equals measurable force. In fact, the international standard measurement of pressure is based on a formula of prescribed force known as a Pascal, or PA. One PA can be said to be equal to the force of a dollar bill lying on a table, or scientifically, one newton per square meter. When you open a valve such as a faucet the water pressure drops as the speed of the water increases. This is known as the Bernoulli Principle. It does not usually concern any of us at all until your water pressure drops and the speed increases through a new opening, unintended. Uh Oh! Water moves from an area of greater pressure to an area of lesser pressure. Mitigation companies help people deal with the effects of this failure and plumbers put the system back to a pre-loss condition. Did you know that a 1/4 water supply line to an ice maker, under normal pressure, can flow 1/2 to 1 gallon of water a minute? That’s 700 to 1,400 gallons per 24 hours. A 3/8 water supply line to a toilet, under normal pressure, can flow 2 to 3 gallons of water a minute. That is 3,000 to 4,000 gallons per 24 hour period. That’s like having an above ground pool, 12 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep, emptying into your home. A 5/8 water supply line to a washing machine can flow 10 to 12 gallons per minute. That’s 14,000 to 17,000 gallons per 24 hour period. That’s like the size of a swimming pool 18 feet in diameter and 4 feet deep flowing into your home. Oh my. Trust me, a box fan and a shop vac cannot do the trick in resolving that. The effects of all that water can be catastrophic. It is not the pressure that is the problem. It is the failure to deal with it appropriately. Which leads me to the personal application.
Wile E. Coyote is a cartoonic example of unresolved conflict. We all have things in which we disagree and feel pressure to correct, punish or remove, something that focuses our attention or ire. Or, in Wile E. Coyote’s world-EAT! We all have bills to pay, responsibilities to fulfill, time related pressures, relationship pressures, identity pressures, financial pressures, moral pressures, pressure for power and control, and more. Our whole physiologic and psychological orientation and response to this is the principle of homeostasis, the pursuit of balance with all these competing pressures. We are designed to respond to this through what is called the General Adaptation Syndrome, which includes the “Flight or Fight” response. Because we are complex in the sense that we are body, soul and spirit our whole life is interwoven in trying to maintain this balance across many layers. When we are affected in one area it typically manifests itself in other areas. As someone who has studied and counseled for 35 years I am keenly aware of how difficult it is to maintain balance from all the pressures of life. Not impossible, just difficult. You have to work at it. There are events and situations in life that can challenge our ability to maintain the pressure properly. That is life. The results of those kinds of events and thinking can have a serious effect on us. So many times we mistakenly run to improper means to manage all of it. Without an appropriate way to manage it something will give and bad things happen.
Personal failure, heartbreak, illness, hunger, personal loss, abuse and unmet needs, for example,set us up for real problems. Those pressures are hard to manage. The challenge is how to achieve a balance from all the pressures and problems of life and get back to general homeostasis, or peace. It is possible. Peace is not the absence of pressure, but the ability to respond to it properly without hurting yourself or others. When the pressure is too much and a failure occurs people start looking for answers (or someone to blame) and how to clean up the mess. There is ALWAYS a reason why people do what they do. A sensible first step in dealing with any issue is admitting it is there. You have to inspect your pipes, hoses, gaskets and valves. Then, discovery is made of not only what happened, but why, and what was affected and what is the course of action to remedy the situation. One must be able to see the big picture. Just like a homeowner who has a water catastrophe needs to rely on experts to get back to
balance, we all need an expert. Where you run for relief or rescue makes all the difference. Because pressures and failures will come. That puts responsibility on us as insurance professionals to be a dependable part of that restorative process for insureds. And, is a reminder for each of us to find that place of safety and restoration that we need.
Now, back to Simon and Garfunkel, Blaise Pascal and Wile E. Coyote, and what they have in common. Simon and Garfunkel sang about how to respond to troubled water-build a bridge over it and also to be there for others. Not bad. Sometimes the best remedy is to by-pass the trouble. Helping others is a noble pursuit. Wile E. Coyote types are driven to punish or remove their perceived enemy and to assert power. As we have all seen, this usually backfires and poor ole Wile E. Coyote pays a steep price over and over. Blaise Pascal recognized pressure and force and studied it, physically, but also spiritually. He was a deeply religious man who formulated a syllogism that became a challenge to his philosophic, and skeptical, friends. It is known as Pascal’s Wager. And it goes something like this; everyone has a choice in how to live and how to respond to pressure, and, whom to run to for pressure relief and restoration. His
supposition was that, to him, neglecting to see the spiritual side of things and not embracing something bigger than oneself was folly. Simon and Garfunkel sang about going around the pressure, Wile E. Coyote worked tirelessly to destroy the pressure and ole Blaise talked about embracing it appropriately. Here is why that just might be the best idea.
In 1987 “Baby Jessica” (Jessica McClure) at 18 months of age fell into a well in Midland, Texas. She was trapped 22 feet below ground for almost 3 days. The nation, and the world, stopped and paid attention to her plight. The only way rescuers knew she was still alive is when she would sing Winnie the Pooh. Miraculously, she was rescued and survived. It was expected that she would lose her leg because it was trapped above her and circulation was lost. She did, in fact, lose a toe. But, the doctors decided to treat her wounded leg with Hyperbaric Pressure. It involved her leg having significant and uncomfortable pressure applied. The result was that her body was strengthened through its response to the pressure. Which brings me to a conclusion. It is not the pressure that is the problem, but our response to it. Fortunately for little Jessica she had experts to help her. Whether we create our own pressures or life happens, we all need something and someone bigger than ourselves to help deal with it. Our responsibility is to check our pipes, hoses, gaskets and valves. In other words, just like in a homeowners policy, we must take steps to mitigate against potential or further damage. Pressure can make you bitter or better. Our response is our choice. When something happens the secret for it to turn out better is to run to the experts who can help your restoration. Do you have that? I encourage you to
consider doing so before the pressure gets too great.
If you would like more information about this topic or to contact the author, please contact Mr. Sutton via email at Terry@StephensEngineering.com or by calling 813-955-0621.