May 31, 2006

The Implicit Dangers of Fundamentalist Education

Without knowledge, there is no reason.

Without reason, there is no knowledge.

Ignorance, willful and learned, breeds hate.

May 28, 2006

Memorial Day 2006


May 27, 2006

May 17, 2006

I got shot today

Well, last weekend, actually, since I'm just getting around to posting this...


Today I did role play with ~20 other volunteers for a group of law enforcement officers from several different agencies who were getting their first training experienced in an active school shooting.

For those who don't know, before Columbine, law enforcement agencies' protocol was to wait until SWAT arrived on the scene and let SWAT go in, something that may take 20 minutes or 2 hours or more, depending on if there is a standing SWAT team or if the team members work for different agencies in the area, as it is in our county.

The first officers on the scene at Columbine were thus forced by protocol to stand outside waiting, while the two student shooters kept firing at and killing students and faculty. After Columbine, that has all changed, with the new protocol being that as soon as 3-4 armed officers of any type - school guards, park rangers, police or sheriff - arrive on scene, they call for SWAT and back up then go in without waiting for anyone else to arrive.

After we gathered at the Sebastopol police department, we walked to Analy High. Had I known it was a) uphill and b) along plant (and probably tick) infested sidewalks, I woulda driven.

Once there, we got shot and bloodied up by the sheriff's deputy who does moulage (technically, the making of a cast of an impression, but the term is also used for the bloody injuries needed in simulation situation such as crisis response training…and in forensics shows.)

I asked for a through-and-through to my arm so I wouldn't have to be dead all the time. The lady behind me in line pointed out that exist wounds are bigger than entry wounds. I said I knew, and was excited about that. (Really, people, I was like this beFORE the parasites ate my brain.) She got a funny look on her face (kind of like yours, I guess). It turns out she's a mortician in Santa Rosa, has to fix a lot of exit wounds, and so isn't that crazy about them. That's probably why she chose to get head-shot.

(If anyone is interested in getting realistic for Halloween, check out CERT-LA's Moulage information, which I coincidentally came across last night while I was researching out more emergency preparedness stuff.)

So, my afternoon was filled with hiding under desks, waving my bloody arm in the air so I wouldn't get shot again, hiding in an electrical closet (in the dark, with a chair in hand to 'smack' whomever opened the door, trying to make sure not to hit all the computer and telephone equipment cabinets overhead), and dodging crossfire while being held hostage. Oh, and doing a lot of yelling at the cops, calling for help and demanding they come down to MY end of the hallway where the shooters were, instead of mucking around clearing rooms and checking bodies on the floor.

For the last two scenarios, which were really more about giving all the cops experience in working stairwells in this type of situation, I took a break and played dead on the first floor.

Before the whole thing started, the cops running the exercise checked all of the other cops' weapons to make sure no one was carrying any live ammo (for the exercise, they were using a "simunnition" loaded with a paint pellet rather than an actual bullet). They then asked us to turn over any knives, guns, Tasers, throwing stars, etc. I volunteered to turn in my knitting needles but they laughed at me (until they realized I could take out someone's eye with them). Oh, did I forget to mention the volunteer who had his eyeball put out, spending the afternoon with his actual eye taped over and a fake bloody eyeball glued to his cheek? Verrrry cool.)

I only got frisked once upon exiting the school building, 'fleeing' the shooters. As the cop lifted my shirt to check my waist band, he asked if I was carrying any weapons. "Only a pair of underwires," I replied.

When we first arrived at the PD to sign in, they asked for our names and addresses, so they can later send us thank you letters. At the end of the day, when they called us together to thank us all for volunteering (normally they only get 8-9 people, so they were thrilled with the number of people and elevated decibel levels), I asked if they could maybe skip the letter and give us Tasers instead. ::sigh:: They said no.

Oh, well, it was fun even with out the party favors (they didn't even let us keep the bullet holes!), and I got an inch or so of a sock knitted during the waiting times between scenes, so I think I'll take a muscle relaxer and take the rest of the night off.

One final comment: the hardest thing for me to do was not be proactive. Passive and beseeching just felt…wrong. At the very end of the last scenario, I did butt in: three cops were dragging a mortally wounded guy out of the building. I thought I'd replace one or two of them so they could go back to cover their fellow officers - and told them so, while inserting myself into the mix and pulling on the guy's arm. It was the only time I let myself act like me.

Well, aside from the occasional smartass remarks and suggestions.

Well, another final comment: There are many ways to get involved in your community.

A couple of years ago I attended the local police department's Citizen's Police Academy. This gives citizens an indepth look at how their police department or sheriff's office works and issues they are dealing with in the community.

Many departments have Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) programs, wherein citizen volunteers perform a wide range of duties that are the department's responsibility but that don't actually require a sworn officer to perform. Ticketing abandoned cars, speed monitoring, Neighborhood Watch training and liaison, Bike Safety fairs, and office clerical work are just some of the areas in which VIPS work.

Another use for VIPS is in role playing, like I did above. In training, it is a lot different for cops and police academy cadets to role play with each other than it is for them to train with strangers. Interacting with strangers makes it more tense, more real, since, like real incidents, they never know what will happen.

To find out if your police or sheriff's department have a Citizen Police Academy program, check your department's website or call the general administration number (not 911!). Applicants for the program are subjected to a basic wants-and-warrants check.

To find out more about VIPS, check out the Volunteers in Police Service website. Applicants have to fill out an application similar to that filled out by people applying for police officer or sheriff's deputy positions, and are subjected to background checks.

Another way to get involved helps you and your family, your neighborhood, and people in your town or elsewhere. We have had so many natural and other disasters in the past 10 years or so: Northridge and Loma Prieta earthquakes; the northern midwest floods; devastating tornados and hurricanes; fires, floods and mudslides (three of the four seasons here in California) - all events that impact the lives a few people, to entire neighborhoods of people, to entire cities.

We have also seen the failure--due to crappy logistical planning and and operative follow-through as well as to the sheer amount of damage, areas involved, and number of lives disrupted--of state and federal emergency disaster services to get on the spot quickly and service the needs of the living and the dead and get communities back into operation again.

That means that the only person you can rely on is you. Preparing yourself and your household to cope for a week or more in the immediate aftermath of a disaster is one thing--a critical thing, to be sure.

But you can go one step farther, and get trained to work with others training in emergency response so you can increase your scope of operations--of positive impact--beyond your home, beyond, even, your street.

Check out your county's Office of Emergency Services and your local chapter of the American Red Cross to see which one is offering Community Emergency Response Team training (CERT). You can also check the website to get information on local CERT and VIPS and other such programs.

It's easy to shrug and decide that others will be there to take care of things for you if "something" happens. If you're lucky, someone may well be. But what if you're not...?