Friday, January 18, 2013

Thinking the Unthinkable

It is often the terrible, unthinkable events that stay with us.  Those large, devastating events are reduced to numbers, such as 9/11 or just the names such as the Titanic, Oklahoma City and now, sadly, Sandy Hook.  They are tragedies so horrible, so unbelievable that you can’t help but wonder and haunt yourself with WHY?  Then, What could we do differently?

Some people find some answers in believing these are acts of terrorism by some anti-American group.  While the attack on the World Trade Center was certainly of this type, the bombing in Oklahoma City building was done by an American citizen, not a foreign entity.  Now Sandy Hook, along with Virginia Tech, Columbine and a growing list of other schools, are places where the most senseless acts seemed to have happened – the targeted killing of children.

Fortunately, if you can see it this way, is that these acts are relatively uncommon.  To put it in perspective, in 2011, just over 32,000 people died in car-related accidents.(1,2)  In that same year, of the 16,259 reported homicides in the United States, 11,078 were from firearms.(3)  And, from those deaths, only 7 people died in 2011 in school-related shootings (4).   So, while the percentage of those deaths is a small part of our over 312 million U.S. residents (5), each death from violence or accident is heartbreaking and tragic.

Can we prepare for such events and perhaps reduce these numbers? It’s not easy, but I say yes. 
Preparedness for driving and car travel is pretty straight forward:  Keep your car in good running condition.  Make sure all brakes, lights and engine systems are regularly maintained.  Take defensive driver classes and insist that all family members follow the law.  Always wear your seat belt and never text or use your cell phone when driving.  Drinking or any other impairment while driving is always forbidden for you and anyone with you.  Additionally, you should have your emergency preparedness kit in your car, then update and check it regularly.

Preparedness for dangerous situations is a more difficult thing for which to prepare, but it can and should be done.  Take classes in self-defense.  If you work in a school environment, learn how to recognize anti-social or detrimental behaviors and find avenues to act on those.  “See something, say something” is a mantra that public safety officials want to get out to empower citizens to intercept bad situations before they occur.  Seek safety training for all of your family, including what to do in dangerous situations.  Some parents do not want to frighten their children, especially young ones, with scenes of people with guns, but given the right way, even small children understand that, when nothing else, they can run away from harm to places of safety.

To those who have lost their loved ones, my deepest sympathy.  My hope is that we can do better and learn from these tragedies to reduce or eliminate their occurrences in the future and make a safer place for all of us to live, work and learn.


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