As I look at the Virginia Tech tragedy, and reflect too on other recent events, it becomes clear to me that it is imperative that we all be prepared to act ourselves when emergencies happen. Panic and inaction only gets more people killed, and waiting for cops and paramedics can similarly leave you dead.
Now, I do not want to turn this into another gun control debate, although I do believe firearms figure into this. I will discuss that in a future thread, so do not bring it up here.
What comes to mind right now is not only the well known case of Professor Liviu Librescu, who blocked the door to his classroom and was shot while his students all fled and survives, but also some lesser known stories like that of Kevin Sterne. He grew up only a few miles from my hometown, in a little crossroads called Eighty-Four, Pennsylvania, and graduated from my high school. I think my brother taught him - he was a teacher there for a while.
His picture was shown rather quickly - he was the one being carried away with firefighters on all four of his limbs. Turns out he was hit in the femoral artery and was bleeding badly. He would have bled to death had he not grabbed an electrical cord and applied a tourniquet to his own leg.
This quick thinking was the difference between making it out in a fireman’s carry and making it out in a body bag.
Other students were reported to barricade doors with desks or even their own feet. Cho would try these doors and move on after not getting in. That made the difference between 32 dead students and faculty and perhaps many, many more.
So, in the future, when your communities, schools and workplaces are formulating their emergency plans, work on your own. Gather the materials needed for you and your family to survive multiple disaster scenarios. Train up on first aid techniques and even some basic self defense. Stay in shape - a sizable percentage of the people who died in Hurricane Katrina did so because they could not climb to safety.
Most importantly, when the next disaster hits, don’t just wait for the cops to show up. Without being suicidal, see what you can do to directly help yourself and those around you. Do not interfere with the professionals who are on hand to deal with the disaster, but do not count on them for everything, especially in the first few minutes of a crime or the first few days of a natural disaster.
It is in these disasters that our responsibilities as citizens become most clear. If they touch you directly, your proper role isn’t to say that your taxes pay the cops, firefighters and paramedics. Your proper role is to help in such a way as the situation warrants, and in such a way as your abilities and talents allow.