Wednesday December 4, 2013
The 911 calls from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut were released today. Some say it's a bad idea to release these recordings. Do we really need to hear this? Do we put the families through this pain?
One of the arguments I've read in the blogosphere is that only the "experts" have any useful insights on the content of those recordings. Not true. The best pressure to cause change happens through transparency. The public needs to hear what happened.
Not everyone will want to listen, and that's fine. Others will listen for less than honorable reasons. Let's face it, some folks want to hear it simply to satisfy their morbid curiosity.
But there are lessons to learn for all of us. All this year I've been conducting "Active Shooter" drills to practice our EMS and law enforcement responses to something like Sandy Hook. One of the recurring discussions was brutally illustrated in the recordings. At least twice in the recordings that have been released, teachers mentioned that their doors were not locked.
You might be shocked that a teacher wouldn't lock his or her door immediately. The problem is that some schools--Sandy Hook included, at least at the time--have doors that can only be locked with a key from outside the classroom. When I taught at the local community college, my classroom's hardware worked that way. It never crossed my mind that it could be a life or death issue.
The most important thing I heard on these recordings is professionalism. The call-takers were calm and in charge. If you listen closely you can hear the tension, but they knew how important it was to move information as efficiently and as accurately as possible.
And they did.
The dispatchers weren't the only professionals. Teachers, one with a gunshot wound to her foot, kept their wits and relayed information as calmly and as clearly as possible. One custodian provided much needed intel for the dispatchers to relay to responding officers. Despite being disconnected a couple of times, the dispatcher regularly sought him out.
There is certainly going to be a plethora of Monday morning quarterbacking, especially by folks with no experience playing on this particular field. That's okay. It creates a discussion that might one day save lives.
Saturday November 30, 2013
It's cold. It's snowing. The power's out. How are you going to get lights and heat?
Answer: generators and burning stuff, both of which can release carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is much more common in the winter when cold weather leads to more furnaces and fireplaces being used. The crazy cold weather we've had this year makes the issue even more dire.
There are a few absolute rules to staying warm and bright during winter storms and cold snaps:
- NEVER run a generator indoors without proper ventilation
- NEVER cook or light a fire on an outdoor grill indoors
- NEVER leave a candle burning unattended
- ALWAYS keep a flashlight handy so you don't have to burn candles for light
You also need to know the signs and symptoms for carbon monoxide poisoning to make sure you can recognize if it happens:
Friday November 29, 2013
Christmas decorations can be very dangerous
Fireplaces and candles mixed with dry trees and hot lights. Christmas brings a multitude of extremely beautiful decorations, many of which are flammable, generate heat, or both. The National Fire Protection Association says there are more house fires started by candles in December than in any other average month.
Carbon monoxide poisoning also goes up as the weather gets colder.
Make sure your holiday decorations are safe. Use candles carefully. Keep the tree watered or use an artificial tree.
Make sure you have proper fire safety equipment in your home to keep the whole family protected.
Remember to make an emergency escape plan and practice it.
Have a safe holiday. For more information on safe decorating and fire safety, read these:
Friday November 29, 2013
If you plan on shopping today, take heed: bundle up because it's cold out there and pay attention, because your fellow shoppers might get serious.
In 2011, a Wal-Mart shopper looking for deals whipped out a can of pepper spray and unleashed on her competition; that sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit or an Adam Sandler movie. Too bad it actually happened.
In San Fernando Valley in California, more than 10 people were sprayed by what some folks are called a "competitive shopper." Remind me to wear a gas mask and football pads next time I go to a holiday sale.