This blog post is a personal story about a parent’s passion to prevent loss and make a difference.
As a parent there isn’t a bigger fear than losing your child. We do everything we can from the day they are born to make sure that they remain as safe as possible. We teach them not to put things in their mouth so that they don’t choke. We make sure that they don’t play with matches so they won’t burn themselves. We eventually allow them to have that first sleepover at a friend’s house and tell them to call us before they go to bed so that we can tell them goodnight, but in reality it’s just another way to make sure that they are safe.
On February 23, 2016 I lost my oldest son after an 8 year battle with cancer. I felt like a failure as a father because I couldn’t do anything to protect him. I can honestly say that nothing prepares you for that moment. My wife and I had plenty of advanced warning that the day was going to come but we weren’t prepared for it.
So when we as a company decided to start a movement to help increase safety and situational awareness it was something that was very near and dear to my heart. It sounds very cliché to say however, I can honestly say that if I can help 1 parent not have to feel the loss of a child then that is the ultimate success in my opinion.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
I reached out to a high school principal recently to see if he would be willing to talk to me about the things that he fears as a school administrator. He agreed and we had a great conversation. We talked about the fact that his school had some obvious gaps in safety and security. We also discussed the topic of an active shooter. I saw in his eyes that it truly was something he worried about. Then he shared with me that his worst fear was that something would happen one day when he wasn’t on school grounds. He knew that he had a great staff and they did drills for preparation in case different scenarios occurred but he wasn’t sure that they would necessarily respond appropriately.
A short time after our conversation I approached him with the idea of doing a school vulnerability assessment with the local police department. He was so excited about the idea and even made some calls to see if the local middle school and elementary school would want to participiate as well. They agreed and I reached out to the local police department to set it up.
We all met early in the morning at the high school. I was joined on the assessments by multiple school administrators, and members of the local police department and county sheriff SWAT. We walked the schools and I can honestly say that it was one of the most eye opening experiences of my life.
As a team we walked the schools the entire day and learned about the different areas that the schools weren’t prepared for in various scenarios. For instance none of the schools had an automated panic system in place in the event of an emergency; they all relied on the overhead paging system to do the job. The high school principal was quick to point out that he realized now just how inefficient and ineffective that an overhead page by a person actually was. We learned from the law enforcement officials that schools made up of primarily middle class students were almost twice as likely to have a shooter that targeted multiple victims than a school made up primarily of lower income students. We learned that the most vulnerable times for an active shooter are when the students and faculty feel most safe, when they are in the classroom learning.
Don’t Just Sit Back
I could go on and on forever about the things I learned that day. But the one thing that I knew walking into the first conversation I had with the principal was confirmed that day, no parent should ever have to feel the loss of a child for any reason. We live in a world that is more dangerous than ever and we have a responsibility to our children to keep them safe at all costs. The easiest way for us to do that is to come together as a society and be proactive rather than reactive to situations that are on the news far too often.
I personally will not sit back anymore and think that it can’t happen to a school in my community. Because in reality, it has happened in all of our communities, HUNDREDS of times and we have just turned a blind eye. The World is OUR community and we have a duty to take action and keep our children safe, so that one day you as a parent don’t have to feel the loss of a child.