A loss in the family…



The smoke detector chirped at 4 in the morning.

I clumsily unfolded out of bed, reached up and removed the entire unit.


Back to bed.


Three days later my wife asked when my schedule allowed me to replace the battery… and the smoke detector itself.

C’mon… What’s the worst that could happen?” I joked before replacing both.


Considering bedding options for our boys recently, ages 6 and 2, I remind my wife my brother and I shared a bunk bed until college.

Are you serious?” she demanded with only the muscles in her face.

C’mon… What’s the worst that could happen?


Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 9.18.57 AM


Ten stitches for Kid 2.

(Could have been much worse.)  



We moved last weekend. As the movers prepared to drive to the new home, I saw my air compressor sad and alone in my garage.

“Hey movers… can you move that too?”

No sir. It’s against policy.

C’mon… What’s the worst that could happen?


We often see Safety on the job differently than Safety at home. 


On the jobsite we’d never use the top 2 steps of an A-frame ladder.

But at home… well, that Christmas wreath isn’t going to hang itself.


Company policy (and common sense) mandates no texting while driving.

But on the weekend… well, your wife was at the Portillo’s drive-thru and she needed your order.


We often see Safety on the job differently than Safety at home.


Statistically speaking, Safety on the job – and at home – is preparation for a non-event.


Most of the time nothing happens.

Everyone is OK.

Life goes on.


Until it doesn’t.


Scott Notary, a Purdue University senior in the Building Construction Management Program, died last Saturday morning in a house fire.

He was weeks away from graduating and turning pro in Construction Management.

I met Scott in his 457 class – Safety – and we traded a few emails.


He was likable – a trait you can’t teach easily.

He participated in class.

He smiled frequently.

He was confident.


In the Malcolm Gladwell sense of the word blink, where we “know” a lot about a person in the blink of an eye – I knew Scott would be successful.

I knew Scott would prove to be one of those few socially intelligent construction managers with the adaptable personality capable of transitioning easily between tradesmen, co-workers, bosses and project owners… often within only a few hours.


It doesn’t appear there was anything proactive that could have been done to avoid this tragedy.

Who knows? 

Maybe it’s just one of those things...



But these things do happen.


When things like this happen, we consider the victim’s family & friends.

Then just as quickly, we consider it in terms of ourselves.


How it affects us. 

How the idea of it affects us.


Even for those like me who only experienced a sliver of Scott.

Or people like you, who never met Scott.


That’s OK.

It’s natural.

We’re self-interested.

We have a survival instinct.


Listen to it.

Plan for the non-event.

See Safety on the job the same as Safety at home.



We all miss out when young talent like Scott Notary leaves us too soon.

Categories: Jobsite Leadership


1 reply

  1. I don’t know you, but I wish I did. I am Scott’s girlfriend and was with him in the fire. Your words honor his memory and solidify for us still here on earth the colossal lack of control we have over what can happen to us in life.

    I, too, knew Scott would do extraordinary things with his life when I met him. I knew that the world was better because of him, and I knew that any person privileged enough to cross paths with him would be unable to deny that.

    What I didn’t understand was how instantaneously and needlessly a flame like Scott’s could be snuffed. I read Gladwell’s book as well, and in it he reminds us that “the key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” I’ve experienced tragedy before, as most all of us have, so I knew the unexpected is not something we can control. What I didn’t understand is that making the decision to be fully prepared for the unexpected can mean the difference between life and death, between keeping the people you love smiling safely and having to attend their funeral.

    Accidents cannot be controlled, but understanding that we are the owners of our preparedness and that we have full control of its extent is something that we must never forget. As you so rightly said, “prepare for the non-event” because the decision to understand the possibilities can sometimes make all the difference. Think about these things and if possible act on them now while you have the ability to do so, not after the fact.

    Thank you again for utilizing the opportunity to share these words of warning with others so that they may never have to endure such a massive loss at the hand of carelessness. Scott would be so proud, as am I.

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