- - Monday, December 5, 2016

The new federal initiative breaks my heart.

Last week Fox news reported a new federal initiative to train everyone at schools and other public places on how to treat gunshots, gashes and other injuries. The rationale for the training program is the hope that people shot, stabbed or otherwise violently injured will be able to hang on to life until actual EMTs get to the scene.

Too many Americans have bled to death in terrorist attacks and mass shootings while waiting for the “all clear” signal that allowed emergency personnel to get to them. So Homeland Security decided to prepare for future horrific attacks against civilians by training custodians, security guards and school administrators to stop the bleeding.

It makes me want to cry.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for disaster preparation. It’s good for folks to know first aid. Everyone should take CPR, learn the Heimlich maneuver to help a choking victim, know the most effective way to save a drowning person and swim to shore together safely. “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst” is a very wise way to live. It is wise to be humble in the face of nature and human error. Not everything can be controlled, nor even foreseen. Things can go very wrong. So install a smoke alarm. Buy a fire extinguisher. Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. Fire, theft, illness, accidents…these are predictable disasters. Try as we might to prevent them, at least one - and perhaps more - of these is going to happen in everyone’s life.

Bad things happen. That’s why we prepare. These facts don’t make me sad.

Preparation for major disasters doesn’t sadden me either. Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods or industrial accidents are events we plan and prepare for locally as well as nationally. I’m actually very glad that we do.

But this new initiative, spearheaded by Stony Brook University Hospital’s trauma center, to train schools and colleges across the nation, saddens me deeply. The new initiative acknowledges the new normal: for the time being at least, terror attacks and mass shootings are here to stay.

The new federal initiative signifies that, as a nation, we’ve outgrown the shock and denial that once characterized our response to catastrophes like Columbine and Newtown, Virginia Tech and Ft. Hood. We’ve come to accept that there can be – there will be – more Orlandos, more San Bernadinos and more Ohio States. Now we hope that at least next time there may be a school custodian on hand to stanch a victim’s bleeding.

It breaks my heart. It should break yours, too.

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