Cold call

Alaska is “a very big small state,” in the words of Adam Fisher.

The in-plant support manager at the Anchorage Processing and Distribution Center explains it this way: Overlaid over the Lower 48, Alaska would stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to Indiana and from Miami to New York, with the Aleutian Islands reaching beyond the Rockies.

All that space, and only 731,000 people to fill it.

“We have to fly to most of our Post Offices,” Fisher said. “We deliver mail to many locations where there is no Post Office. We have a small and dedicated Logistics team focused on keeping track of hundreds of flights a day into and out of rural Alaska.”

Those awesome logistics — the largest state in the union by area with a population much lower than the smallest, Rhode Island — piqued the curiosity of USPS Chief Logistics and Processing Operations Officer Isaac Cronkhite and Logistics Vice President Robert Cintron.

The two packed their parkas and flew to the Last Frontier to get a behind-the-scenes look at how Alaska’s employees pull this Arctic hare out of a hat.

Alaska District Manager Ronald Haberman briefed Cronkhite and Cintron before their visit, which was organized by a group that included Fisher; Rita Oliver, the Anchorage Processing and Distribution Center’s senior plant manager; Marc Kersey, division logistics director; John DiPeri, division processing operations senior director; and Karlett Gilbert, regional logistics senior director.

On their first day, Cintron and Cronkhite toured the Anchorage center and discussed peak season, physical upgrades on the work floor and the center’s new automated delivery unit sorter machine.

The following day they took a trip to the western hub of Bethel. From there, they traveled by hovercraft to the remote village of Akiachak.

The secluded outpost was an eye-opener for Cronkhite. “It would be hard to overstate how essential the Postal Service is for people in remote areas like Akiachak,” he said. “We are truly a lifeline for them.”

He praised the Logistics team for their yeoman’s work keeping the mail flowing in the frigid landscape. “The hurdles are considerable, but the team thinks ahead,” he said.

Fisher and the Anchorage team don’t coast on their achievements.

“We’re always asking the question, ‘How many times do we need to touch a parcel before the carrier delivers it?’” he said.

“We also keep asking ourselves, ‘How redundant can we be so that, if a machine breaks, we can keep sorting?’”

That “continuous improvement” mindset is a big benefit for Alaskans, particularly those in remote regions.

Though they face “very interesting and unique logistical issues,” Fisher is unfazed. “We are ready for peak season and we will be ready for the future.”

Safe hands

National Handwashing Awareness Week, held annually the first full week in December, will be observed Dec. 1-7.

Handwashing is the first line of defense against the bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa that cause illness. It prevents the spread of colds, flu, gastroenteritis and viruses such as the coronavirus.

Follow these five steps every time you wash your hands:

• Wet your hands with clean running water.

• Lather hands with soap and rub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

• Scrub for at least 20 seconds.

• Rinse your hands well under clean running water.

• Dry hands using a towel or air dryer.

Wash your hands before and after touching your eyes, nose or mouth; before and after eating; after touching your mask; after using the restroom; after entering and leaving a public space; and after touching items that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, gas pumps, shopping carts or cash register screens.

Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if it’s not possible to wash with soap and water. The sanitizer should be at least 60 percent alcohol.

Handwashing is preferable to sanitizer because the latter does not get rid of all types of germs and may not be as effective on grimy or greasy hands.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has additional details on handwashing, while the Wellness LiteBlue page has more information on health matters.

Recovery mode

The Combined Federal Campaign’s cause of the week is global health.

The World Health Organization declared 2020 “a devastating year” for health care worldwide, with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic jeopardizing hard-fought advances in maternal and child health and in non-COVID infectious disease.

Many parts of the world suffer with illnesses that are easily preventable — and treatable — with just a bit of help.

Yet medical systems have been set back on their heels, forced to battle the pandemic on top of everything else at a time when trained personnel are in short supply.

Overstretched medical systems worldwide need all the support they can get from the many nonprofits that serve this need.

If you’d like to help the cause but are unsure of where to direct your donation, the website for the campaign, also known as the CFC, can help.

Under “Donors” on the home page, choose “Online Charity Search” from the drop-down menu.

The second field is “Select a Specific Category.” While there is no specific category for global health, there are many that touch on it.

A few to try include “Health Care,” “Public Safety, Disaster Preparedness & Relief” and “Voluntary Health Associations & Medical Disciplines.”

The CFC is the federal government’s workplace charity drive. The current campaign began Sept. 1 and runs through Jan. 15.

Participation in the CFC is voluntary.

The website has more information.

This is the 11th in a series of articles spotlighting the Combined Federal Campaign’s cause of the week. Next week: human rights.