12 September 2010

Like a Bucket of Ice

I am an emergency responder. A attends day care at my place of work. These two facts don't seem, on the surface, to be at all related and in fact, I had neatly compartmentalized them into two separate bins myself...until a couple of weeks ago.

When I dropped A off, her teacher said, "Hey, big day tomorrow, Miss A!" and looked at me. "She doesn't do well with evacuations. It scares her."

Because I was currently rummaging about in the "Dropping of fat Daycare" bin in my brain, I gave her a blank look. "Um, and what's tomorrow?"

She looked at me funny in turn. "The active shooter exercise? You know? The whole base?"

Oh. Damn. I did know. I knew because my job puts me in the nerve center for response and command and control. But then, I didn't know because daycare is...well, not located in that mental compartment.

I knew when A was evacuated, twice the week prior, for smell of smoke in the facility. And I knew about what had happened during the first evacuation. But I wasn't part of that because it was small in scale and easily handled by first responders. I also knew that she, along with many other kids, didn't do well with it. So, we talked about it on the way home and now, she's walking us through fire drills. She doesn't like the alarms, but she's working through it.

What I never really considered though, was the simple fact that, if something does happen here that requires a full reponse, I'll be, well, responding. I suppose that some people might find that comforting, but the problem I see with it is that my job mandates that I know what's going on. Most other parents with children in day care don't know what's going on until a while after it's happened.

And then I did the unthinkable in this particular situation: I started to think, as I drove from daycare to my office, about high impact targets on the base. And if I were a gunman, I'd go for the heart and soul. And to me, that's the kids. It was like I'd been punched in the stomach.

What danger have I unthinkingly put my daughter in? It gnawed at me all day and most of that night. I also berated myself for not thinking about it before. What kind of parent am I?

The exercise, however, came and went. Instead of dwelling on my daughter, hunkering down in the designated safe room with the rest of the class, my focus was on command and control and what was happening out there and what we needed to do in here.

In the end, the kids, including my daughter, did well. They played games involving being quiet and actually had fun. They had no idea what was happening, or why. As it should have been. I try not to think too much about it either, but sometimes, it creeps up on me. I work on a potential target for bad people to do bad things, moreso than most other places of business. My daughter is growing up in many ways there too. The benefits outweigh the risk, but what sort of parent am I that I never before thought of that risk?

What do you think? Is civilian daycare safer than military daycare or are military parents inherently more at risk?


Anonymous said...

Interesting - I could see why you never thought of it. I suppose that statistically the risk is a tiny bit higher, but at the same time, the people in charge of the kids are a lot more likely to know what to do to mitigate the risk. So on balance, the difference in danger is probably extremely small. - SKL

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