Keep a Cool Head

Sep 01, 2003 9:30 PM  By

CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF, Walt Disney was not put in deep-freeze postmortem but planted in the soil like nearly everyone else. Disney died in 1966, years before the science of cryogenics became a fact of modern life. Cryogenics is simply the freezing of a human body for preservation. The idea is to stave off natural processes in the hope that a cure will one day be found for whatever malady took the living person out of this world.

Alcor Life Extension Foundation is a leading player in the cryogenics business. Established in 1972, the foundation operates in an airport industrial park in Scottsdale, AZ. Flanked by small job shops, and electrical supply houses, the innocuous-looking Alcor building gives no hint of the facility’s true purpose: warehousing the dead.

“The earliest cryogenic organizations failed because the survivors quit making payments,” says Alcor spokesperson Paula Lemler. “Alcor was set up under a ‘Patient’s Care Trust’ of $2.4 million so we don’t have that problem. Currently, we are equipped to care for 75 patients. We have 58 now, both whole bodies and ‘neuros,’ which is a cryogenic term for ‘heads only.’ Many people actually prefer neuro to whole-body preservation because it’s less expensive. Others hope to get a better body upon revival than the one they were stuck with in their previous lives.”

Only 500 square feet of Alcor’s 21,000-sq.- ft. building is dedicated to warehousing and maintenance. In this area, also known as the “patient care bay,” bodies are stored in 9-ft.-tall stainless steel containers called “Dewars.” Named after a pioneer in the field of thermal insulation (not the Scotch brand), a Dewar weighs 6,500 lbs. when filled with liquid nitrogen. Each is designed to hold seven whole bodies and five neuros.

At the moment seven Dewars fill the patient care bay. They are computer-monitored 24/7, and maintained by a staff of human volunteers who regularly refill the tanks with liquid nitrogen and make certain tank temperatures remain a constant -320°F. The volunteers, who live on the premises, also help prepare new patients in a that process involves an extended cool-down period prior to interment in the bay.

“We are legally able to do this thanks to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, the legislation that makes organ donation possible,” Lemler says. “Part of our mission is to educate the public about cryogenics. We give tours, talk to the media, and lecture on the subject. Almost everyone who works here is an Alcor member, and most knew the people in the patient care bay when they were alive. We’re all driven by the same desire. We want to see cryogenics work.”

Ed. note: As this article went to press, several major news outlets broke the story that a controversy was brewing over allegedly defaulted payments to maintain the remains of one of Alcor’s clients, baseball great Ted Williams.

A PERFECT 10

When you realize, fairly early on in the day, that your call center is facing an unexpected surge in calls — 402 by 10:30 a.m. — what can you do? Faced with this scenario back in 1995, you might have done your own intraday forecast:

  • Look at previous traffic patterns and calculate half-hourly proportions for a day’s calls. Let’s say, for illustration, that equals 18%. Now divide the calls already received by 18%. If this trend continues, you can expect a total of 2,233 calls today.

  • Now break down the revised forecast into the remaining half-hours by multiplying historical half-hourly proportions by 2,233. If you normally get 6.6% of traffic between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m., today you can expect 147 calls during that period. Run Erlang C to determine the impact on staffing.

All in a Day’s Work

Short-term/intraday call center forecasting

402 Calls received by 10:30 a.m.
÷18% Divided by usual percentage of calls received by 10:30 a.m.
2,233 Revised calls forecast for day
× 0.066 3:30-4:00 p.m. proportion
147 Intraday forecast for 3:30-4:00 p.m.
Source: O+F, Nov./Dec. 1995