As you may know, Rescue Digest is located in Western Connecticut, just a few minutes away from the town of Newtown. While Rescue Digest consists of only two regular staff, many of our contributors are emergency responders who live or work in and around Sandy Hook, one literally next door to where the incident took place. I, myself grew up in Newtown and worked there as an intercept paramedic. I have had the privilege to teach and work side-by-side with the police, fire, and EMS responders in the region and at the hospital where victims were treated.
Many of us were connected directly or indirectly with the incident and, like many around the world, are struggling to find a way to mourn and seek answers as we continue to work to protect our communities. While I was not a direct responder to this incident, and do not wish to speak for those who were, I will say that I know that the many expressions of comfort and support that our responders have received from around the world are incredibly appreciated.
It is times like this that such a bond is both tested and strengthened. It will take time for us to mourn, to heal, and to recover. But while we know that tragedies like this are rare, we also know that heartbreak will always be some part of our chosen profession of emergency response. Our calling demands that we must prepare ourselves to respond to the next tragedy, whatever its nature may be, but in order to do that we must take the time to collect ourselves, care for each other, and try to make sense of what is occurring around us.
In the past 24 hours
I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to become friends with leaders, educators and responders from all over the United States, many of whom have contacted me to ask what they can do to help. If you are nearby Sandy Hook and wish to offer physical or material help, the state of Connecticut asks that you call 1-800-203-1234 to offer assistance. The Connecticut State Police and Sandy Hook Fire Chief Bill Halstead state request that no responders self-dispatch or send personnel or equipment that has not been requested through official channels. For those who are not physically close, I would ask that, as soon as is appropriate, you take steps to advance the incident response readiness in your community for mass casualties, active shooters, and the like. By this I mean review the plans in place, ensure that they include the relevant stakeholders (police, fire, EMS, school system, state and regional response, etc.) and ensure that whatever that plan calls for, all of those stakeholders regularly train on and practice it TOGETHER and work TOGETHER to continue to improve and revise it so that whatever tragedy may strike your community, you will all respond knowing that you are prepared to give your community the best possible outcome.
What I will do in the coming days and weeks.
For 23 years I have had the fortune to count myself as a brother to many fine emergency responders in Western Connecticut. In the past three years with RescueDigest I have been blessed to be able to expand that brotherhood to include responders from around the world including you, the person reading this right now. Like you, I am compelled to do whatever I can to help. It is not just what we do, it is who we are. For this reason in the coming days and weeks we will work together to bring you resources like our own School Lockdown Considerations article and Working With Law Enforcement podcast, along with other best practices so you can best prepare yourself, your service and your community to respond to incidents like this one. We all hope that we are never called upon to answer a call like the one in Sandy Hook and, God willing, no more would ever happen, but at the very least your preparation will help answer questions and put minds at ease in your community.
This is what I want to do to help in the coming days and weeks, but for now this is a time for leadership and support, education and preparation and most importantly, this is the time to care for each other. Thank you again for the love and care that so many of you have sent this way. On your behalf I will share it with those here who need it most. Likewise, I ask that you share our love and brotherhood with the fellow responders where you live.
Donations to support victims families can be made to a local fund that goes directly to assist with funeral arrangements and the like. Read more and donate if you wish at: MY SANDY HOOK FAMILY FUND