Emergency preparedness

To the Editor:

“Emergency Preparedness: Police offer disaster training for students” (Fairfield Citizen, July 19) brings back memories of long ago about the possibility of an atomic bomb attack on the United States.

I have taught school, and I know something about emergency preparedness as an entity, practiced and had drilled into us during the early years of the atomic bomb following, and I spell it out, World War Two. It was, for us, under the desk or against the walls in the hallway, away from doors and windows, in case of a bomb blast. Nice, huh?

Sounds ridiculous today, for, it sounded ridiculous to the adult in the room if not to the headmaster, who had the job of sounding the alarm because of the requirement that we had to have the drill, several times a year.

The ridiculousness of it all was paramount in our adult memories because many of us had all seen photos and “Movietone News” of the devastation in Japan that had, finally, ended the war when we Yanks had victoriously dropped the first atomic bombs on Japan, justifiably so, in the explosive aftermath, because the whole of the war had ended, possibly, as a result of these tremendously hellish devices.

Then, years later, there came the “seek cover” signal for a gunman in the school building. I should think that all these years later, after the killer’s rampage here in Connecticut, that the “drill” that teachers have in mind is constantly alive, literally, in the back of their heads.

The “man with a gun drill” forever altered the conception teachers might have had of how to react to an emergency, once defined, if it had never crossed their minds in the event of an active gunman in a school, and yet, time and again, members of the school community, somewhere, are caught off guard. Whenever it happens, it’s no-drill, even as many if not most wonder, including teachers, if it is, truly a drill or some other, even more, terrifying event.

It seems to me that police departments will find some way or other of insinuating themselves in elementary schools, particularly. There are reasons, other than instruction with which some parents may be familiar that are not altogether genuine.

While parents might ask themselves what these reasons might be for having drills, one readily comes to mind. It is that the sooner police officers can introduce themselves to the youngster, the better for the officers and the force. It can be a daunting, scary thing to be face to face with an officer asking questions.

To learn that a policeman is not a bogeyman is a good thing.

In the event that parents, themselves, are not thinking of preparedness in case of disaster, what makes anyone believe that a fourth-grader with a disaster training workshop and a disaster preparedness kit, as a result, will? Might it make a good training video? It does.

So, there’s the workshop and what police officers themselves get out of It, which is getting to know the kids better. In my mind, that’s the reason that officers like teaching the course. I remember my experience during WWII, which involved getting fingerprinted. In that case, millions of fingerprints were forever added to the national fingerprint registry. I just did not know about it at the time.

I rather like thinking there’s no ulterior motive here. But if I were superintendent, I’d take a pass. While I do not know what regular instruction the police training is substituting for, I would rather have the scheduled class time, than the intervening lesson on the potential for readiness in case of a disaster. That, I think, is a parental responsibility.

If parents need the instruction test, let them seek it by an asking the police to provide them with it. That what be preferable to me.

G. Coulombe