Scaremongering in schools: can we do better than trolling our kids?

I get it. Gunmen on the loose are scary. Sending kids off to school where you lack control is scary. And since our society seems utterly incapable of passing even modest gun control legislation, the logical thing to do is to protect kids in the highly-unlikely but still scary-as-hell event that a gunman is loose inside a school.

Thus it has become commonplace in many schools to practice “lock-down drills.” These are drills which like fire drills are preparedness exercises, but carry the scary “lock down” title and implicit threat of crazy people out to kill kids. They can’t help but illicit comparisons to “Duck and Cover” drills of the 1950’s, when the far-off Red Scare engendered the same type of over-protectiveness impulse:

In response to last year’s Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, schools around the country are now doing lockdown drills. Gananda School District practiced its first this school year.

“We are much more vigilant than we were 21 years ago. Events in our country have made us be that way and we practice a lot. We emphasize to the kids that these are drills but we must practice them like it’s a live situation,” Caulkins said.

The practice elicited quite the conversation yesterday evening on Twitter:

But if I may play Devil’s Advocate for a moment, what about all those fire drills? When is the last time you heard about a fire in a school?

The National Fire Protection Association says about 5,600 fires happen in schools, annually, resulting in about 85 injuries. The National Center for School Statistics cites over 100,000 public and private schools, as in buildings, in the US. That’s not necessarily a high fire-to-school ratio, but we still do drills every year.

Perhaps the problem is that we need to stop naming our safety drills in schools after disasters? Fire drills and lock down drills. There are any number of reasons – not all of them necessarily life-threatening – that a school might need to hastily account for every kid’s location at once.

Rather than the traditional titles, what about “inside drills” and “outside drills?” I’ll leave it to school administrators to stamp those drills with the antiseptic titles that are the hallmark of their profession. Think “lavatory,” but for fire drills.

If one drill means everybody goes outside and another means everybody goes to the gymnasium, the reason why doesn’t matter. No scaremongering. No arch panic if and when it becomes necessary to use one or the other. The kids just get used to a routine that everyone hopes will never be necessary.


Texting and Driving: Its Just Distracted Driving

The Democrat and Chronicle has a new article up about the frustrations local law enforcement has had with the new texting while driving law that went into effect this past November. The trouble, they say, is that the law requires “secondary enforcement,” meaning they have to pull you over for something else in order to enforce this particular law.

Here’s the question I’d like someone in journalism to ask someone in law enforcement: why did we need this law in the first place when there is already an ordinance against the much more generic “distracted driving”? I’m not saying it is or isn’t necessary: I’m asking why.

It seems like with every new technology, we go through this need to pass a specific law against it, when it seems like distraction is generic enough to allow lots of things to qualify. Even my (gulp) penchant for drumming and singing while driving – I won’t even stop because you’re looking at me! – could qualify under some definitions.

Maybe that law has been abolished. Maybe a new law that is as generic needs to replace all these crap laws. But it seems to me that splitting hairs like this is no good for anybody. I dunno, just my uninformed Sunday rant, I suppose.


Statewide Emergency Wireless Network Killed

There was a plan between the State of New York and a subsidiary of Tyco Electronics to build a wireless network which could be used exclusively by emergency crews (fire, police, ambulence, etc) in the event of an emergency. Choosing a Tyco company seems bad enough to start with, but it now appears that this deal has been killed due to numerous delinquencies on the part of the contractor.

But the article notes also that this move was also in response to the deficit the Governor has seen fit to deal with right now. I still think the timing of our sudden interest in budget cuts and spending reduction is a bit odd, but this seems like the kind of thing we might want to farm out to someone else, not kill outright.


Geese Trapped on 490

Last night, as I returned home from work at 4:30pm, I was startled to see a flock of about twenty or so Canadian geese walking along the breakdown on 490 eastbound, in front of the East Rochester exit.  It seemed like a curious oddity until I talked to my wife and discovered that she’d also seen them on the road at 3:30 that same day.

It then dawned on me that the geese were trapped.  You see, geese need to have a bit of open, level ground on which to run and get a head of steam before they’re able to take flight.  For whatever reason, these geese got stuck on 490, where there is no such room. . .  unless of course they cross the highway.  And every time they do, there’s a good chance some of them might not make it.  Every time they do, there is the potential for a very serious automobile accident at 65-70 miles an hour.  Indeed, on our ride east later that evening, we saw signs of what danger there was, as we saw no less than three dead geese in the road in the space of maybe 100 feet.

We contacted 911 yesterday evening to alert them of the issue.  We were informed that the 911 dispatch had actually recieved more than one call before us about this same situation and were assured that someone would take care of it.

This morning, my wife and I went to the public market.  Guess what we saw on our ride home?  Three more geese dead in the road and the remainder hunkered down in the space between the East Rochester off-ramp and 490 east.  Nothing has been done.

We contacted 911 again this morning and I carefully and patiently explained the situation to another operator.  I think it’s pretty clear they didn’t get it right off the bat – and neither did the other operator – but once she did, she took it much more seriously.  Both operators said they’d gotten calls previously on the same situation, but as yet no action occurred.  I don’t think anyone knew what to do, for a start.  She gave me the number for Pittsford’s animal control group.  When I spoke to someone there, he was also aware of the situation, but from his perspective, he couldn’t stop traffic without the sheriff’s department’s help.  So far, no sheriffs had yet been deployed to the scene in over twelve hours.

So I contacted the Monroe County Sheriff’s department in Pittsford.  By the time I’d gotten to them, they’d received calls (probably from 911 and the Pittsford animal control, both) and finally said they would be deploying sheriffs to the scene.  That was quarter to nine this morning, a few minutes ago.

As much as my wife and I love nature and respect animal life, I don’t pretend that others necessarily feel the same way.  I can understand that – at first blush – the idea of geese on 490 conjures images more absurd than dangerous to many people, especially those not familiar with the dangers of highway travel in rural areas.  But this situation is both remarkably torturous for the birds and remarkably dangerous for human commuters out there on the highway; I would have expected that a more serious effort would have been initiated much, much sooner to resolve this issue.

I’ll try to keep this space updated with what I hear and see over the day about this problem.


What’s Going on in the E.R.? Plane Crash?!?

There’s been quite a bit of news lately about Monday of a few weeks back, when ambulances were piled up waiting on available space at emergency rooms in Rochester. Apparently, E.R.s have been operating in “Code Red” over-capacity for months, now. It looks as though this problem is getting quite a bit of discussion within the medical community as well, as reports:

Emergency Care Investigation –

Mark Tornstrom, of Monroe Ambulance, said, “Monday, quite honestly, we ran out of resources and if there had been a catastrophic event, we really would’ve had difficulty and that is a major concern and one that has sparked a lot of discussion in our community.”

The last I knew, while Genesee was closed, it’s E.R. was to remain open. Does anyone know if this changed? Is that contributing to the problem? If not, what is? Nothing is mentioned in the report.

However, one thing that is in the report which gets scant mention elsewhere:

Emergency Care Investigation –

While ambulances backed up, an alert from an incoming airplane added to the chaos. Tornstorm said, “There was an alert for an airplane crash, and the normal amount of resources that we put on standby were not available.”

Exqueeze me? What the hell happened there?