April 18, 2007
Virginia Tech Heroes
During Monday’s tragic shootings at Virginia Tech, college senior Kevin Sterne grabbed an electrical cord and fashioned a tourniquet to stem the bleeding from the bullet wounds to his thigh. Twenty-year-old Derek O’Dell, who had been shot in the arm, shut the classroom door and along with some other students, pushed himself against it so the gunman, who had briefly left the classroom, couldn’t reenter. Twenty-year-old Trey Perkins used his clothing to staunch the wounds of bleeding classmates.
In the aftermath of this week’s bloody shootings, college officials have come under strong criticism for not locking down the campus quickly enough following the initial two fatal shootings and for alerting students through email to stay home. I cannot help but draw parallels to 9/11, when my brother-in-law died after following a directive from security to return to his office. Like those mentioned above, he too fought heroically to help trapped colleagues. My sister spoke to him via his cell phone shortly before he died.
I don’t know how I would respond in such a crisis. Although I hope never to find out and do not advocate that we spend our life anticipating such a situation, I do believe effective training would benefit us all.
The failures of the security team during 9/11 and now, arguably 4/16, show that training alone does not necessarily save lives, but thorough preparedness can surely help. For example, this past weekend was the 10th anniversary of the flood in Grand Fork, North Dakota. It is celebrated as a FEMA success and often invites comparisons to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, where FEMA drew sharp criticism for its response.
Twenty years ago, I was a CPR-trained ski patroller. In recent years, I’ve let that certification lapse. It’s time we took a closer look at our own preparedness and the training we do and don’t provide, particularly at our workplaces, irrespective of the nature of our employment. We all could benefit from knowing how best to respond in a crisis. Were disaster to strike my office or my home, I would not be as well prepared as I once was. Would you?
Read more on how to create a disaster plan.
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