As a former industrial-safety person, I believe I understand some causes and effects of unsafe acts and conditions. This essay is not about safety statistics, as much as it is about training methods.
Industrial Safety Training
Not once in my career did I use a video which showed the ‘blood, guts and gore’ of industrial accidents. It was a personal choice, as I intuitively knew that many people are like me, and learn nothing from ‘shock training.’ in fact, most attempts in shocking me into understanding have the reverse effect. Over the years, I found that creating a safe space to work (through ergonomic and industrial engineering) and then training workers to faithfully use provided safety systems and equipment were productive in reducing ‘unplanned events’ [accidents].
Motor Vehicle Safety Training
I recall the routine showings of films (yes, 16mm films) in health classes in public high school, that provided plenty of blood, guts and gore in the interest of shocking fresh, teen drivers of the 1960s into compliance with motor vehicle regulations. After one or two such films, I was numbed to the process. I still had classmates who died in motor vehicle accidents, despite their having watched the ‘safety-training’ films. I didn’t understand at the time, but believe I do now, that motor vehicle accidents had (and have) so many causes that focusing on the most-sensational causes have no lasting value for training. The truth is: That despite that the number of licensed drivers has doubled since I got my driver’s license; highway fatalities have not increased proportionally. In fact, highway deaths have generally leveled or even declined in the intervening years. In simplest terms, the reason that death tolls are moderate is that vehicles have been engineered to much higher safety standards, and highways technology (design/construction) standards have markedly improved over time. Yeah, the driver is still in control of some situations, but the ‘in-the-background’ safety has had great and positive impact on safety despite what some dumb drivers do behind the wheel. As noted below, we don’t rehearse vehicle crashes as a form of driver training.
School Mass-Shooting Safety Training
I fear we are now making the same ‘sensational-and-insane’ mistakes in our schools, by using ‘active-shooter’ style drills in response to mass school shootings; and are likely doing much more psychological harm to young students than the notorious ‘Duck-and-Cover’ drills did to youth of the 1950s. While I make no pretense of genius, in my preteen years, I understood then that an exchange of thermonuclear weapons (atomic or hydrogen, thank you) would reduce victims (and the impact site) to subatomic constituents if in close proximity to the point of impact, or ensure an agonizing death from the effects of radiation sickness, if not in the direct-impact zone. The old line about, “Put head between legs and kiss it goodbye” was not lost on me. The national insanity of that time, presumed that there was protection by having a relatively-thin sheet of desk-top plywood over one’s head. At the time, I knew how ludicrous a ‘duck-and-cover’ activity was; and how otherwise bright adults stupidly thought that some plywood would magically offset the effects of a Soviet ICBM, if it came.
Just like industrial accidents, traffic accidents and nuclear war, the use of weapons to massacre students in our schools is the product of multiple causes.
As I have written in this apace before, the most-significant causes of mass shootings are:
1) The sadly-erroneous national mindset that a weapon somehow provides ‘safety’ for its owner;
2) That undiagnosed and untreated mental-health issues are ‘the cause’ [as evidenced by the ‘Guns don’t kill people; people kill people’ retort];
3) Suggesting that the ‘fix’ to mass shootings is to arm faculty members;*
4) Easy access to military-grade weapons.
While I could spend some effort in fleshing-out the details of each cause, I have learned that no matter what is said, the pro-gun folk will gladly supply bogus ‘data’ to firm up their already-baseless opinions. They routinely point fingers everywhere (even insanely to the defenseless victims) gladly avoiding the fact that there are just too many, easily-obtained weapons available, everywhere in this country, that background checks are likely useless; that age limits for quick purchase mean nothing; and this country is currently quite satisfied with the slaughter of the innocents. But, oh, will we pay for that one of these days.
In the NRA-bought-and-paid-for political system at national, state and local levels, we will never hear the full, unvarnished truth of all the causes of school mass shootings. We will continue to have school mass shootings because we, otherwise-bright adults choose not to address the root causes and fix them, forever. We will instead conduct knee-jerk ‘safety’ drills, including ‘active-shooter’ drills, to the detriment of children we were supposed to protect.
School mass shootings are and remain a national disgrace. Future generations — especially the younger-generation of survivors and soon voters — will rightly skewer this generation for doing nothing to end the violence. We will be viewed exactly as I see the ‘duck-and-cover’ and ‘blood, guts and gore’ trainers of my youth.
Note: This essay was inspired in part by the thoughtful essay noted below. I gladly echo her implied question: How is the ‘Active-Shooter’ drill measurably better than existing ‘lockdown’ drills?
Brenna Demands, a Medium writer, has an excellent essay which discusses the parallels between the ‘Duck-and-Cover’ drills of the Cold War era and the ‘Active-Shooter’ drills now being inflicted upon students and teachers in this Nation. It is searchable on Medium as “Active Shooter Drills Aren’t the Answer” or at this link.
Active Shooter Drills Aren’t the Answer
Simulating perceived threats may have a lasting psychological toll
* I have made the personal choice to never knowingly enter the premises of any school which arms its faculty for ‘protection’. No thanks.