On the 15th day of June 1904, about 1,358 members mostly consisting of women and children set out on an annual trip conducted by St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on a chartered ferry named “SS General Slocum” from the East River located in the city of New York, USA. These women and children were one among the many immigrant population who inhabited the slummy and dingy areas of New York’s Lower East Side. The spot for the picnic was to be on the North Shore of Long Island.
This steam ferry was a bit different as it was a side wheeler which was a more common sight those days in the waters of New York harbour. The picnic crowd boarded at the 3rd street. During the course of this journey the ferry was passing through a narrow tidal strait known as “Hell Gate” when a fire broke out suddenly spreading quickly causing panic amongst the passengers. The captain hoping to contain the fire maintained his course towards the sound but due to a stiff wind that blew directly against the course in which the moving object was moving a resistance was created resulting in further fanning of the flames. Through the captain’s laborious efforts the ship was eventually beached to North Brother Island. The hospital was already a location for infectious diseases. By this time there was complete chaos prevailing in the ferry as a result of which the passengers started to leap into the water to protect themselves from the flames.Was there a standard operating procedure in place?
Here if one were to go and see what really went wrong then certain aspects in terms of adherence to safety measures were missed or not taken carefully which could be due to the absence of what we call the standard operating procedure. If someone here were to ask this what is SOP got to do here to do, then the obvious answer would be that the safety measures would have been addressed in the standard operating procedures manual. The presence of the standard operating procedures manual may have indicated about the life-jackets, how to address for defects in the life jackets, how and when to have done a preventive or scheduled maintenance, how these life jackets should have been placed so that it were made accessible during an emergency, how the crew members should have been properly trained to access these life jackets and thus averted this tragedy that resulted in about 1000 people mostly women and children losing their lives.
Incidents like these time and again remind us of the importance of SOP writing to be adopted by entities while in existence.