Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bulletproof backpacks & other bad safety ideas 

Bulletproof backpacks are available this year for children in school. After safety experts shot holes in the idea (pun intended), the makers/marketers gave this justification: "The creators of the backpack, however, say they're giving parents an extra chance to protect their kids." How might you ask? "At least they'll have their backpack that they can hold up in front of them," said Joe Curran, a carpenter who along with his business partner Mike Pelonzi has been selling the new product online through their Massachusetts-based company, MJ Safety Solutions, since last week."

To be blunt, the idea is that a child, your child, would hold their bulletproof backpack in front of them if confronted by a gun-toting crazed killer. As long as the shooter is NOT using a rifle, shotgun, or powerful handgun, it might work the first round. What if, I am just thinking around the issue, the shooter shoots your child in the leg? Will your child have the cool-mindedness of a battle-hardened Marine and keep hold of the backpack shield? OR, will your child like all humans drop the packpack and grab their wounded extremity, thus rendering the protection offered by the bulletproof backpack moot? The VT nut shot most of his victims repeatedly.

There are some safety trainers I have watched on TV that actually encourage children to flee, safeguard, or fight back as needed in a sane, real manner. Leave the track field and stop at the Exxon on the edge of campus. Lock yourself and others in the nearest room and do not open the door until the police are standing outside. If the shooter is already in the room, your 8lb Biology textbook should be thrown at his head. Use the desk as a battering ram. That is a real, practical response to danger.

If the school my children attend concerns me to the point that I am considering buying a bulletproof backpack, then home-schooling is the only real option. Followed soon after by a relocation to a less populated area.

We want quick fixes that help us have peace-of-mind. Dwell on tragedies too much as a parent and your calm can be shattered. We want to go to sleep tonight with the idea that we have done everything possible to keep our children safe. Quick fixes do not work and are rarely fixes. Most of what is offered today is window-dressing and not real answers. Think for a moment about sex-offender registries. I would have to check the online database daily/weekly to keep informed about the scum who may or may not be living in my area. And what if the data is out-of-date? For the registry to do any good, all parents would have to habitually check the listings and then make changes in lifestyle to deter the offender. Is that real? No. But opposing sex-offender registry laws on the basis of common sense is not a politically viable option. To get ahead of the wave, we need to have routine training and drills in our schools. The tornado drills I rehearsed in elementary school have served me well in numerous instances in my life as a student, soldier, and child care director.



Playground Fire 

You can read here the report of a playground in Arlington, TX. Coincidence was that the fire was caught on a security camera. Ample proof that spontaneous combustion of the wood mulch used in the fall zones ignited. Scientifically feasible and yet unbelievable in early childhood circles.

Quick quote from story: "Dr. Bernd said that 35 playgrounds at 20 schools would be closed by the end of the day Monday. He said it would take two weeks and $200,000 to replace the wood fiber with pea gravel. The district has about 65 other playgrounds, but those already have pea gravel on the ground to cushion children's falls."

I am a fan of pea gravel as a fall surfacing. But the bureaucratic response in this case puzzles me. The school system will spend $200,000 to fix a problem that could be fixed with available assets and staff. Surely, the Arlington school system has a rake and a maintenance team. Just stir the mulch. Also, install drainage as needed. Replacing the mulch with pea gravel is an over-the-top response in this case. $200,000 is all of the playground budget in most systems.

What should be asked is why the 65 other playgrounds have pea gravel when the 35 to be retrofitted had wood mulch. Was a CPSI ever consulted? Does the school system hire or retain a CPSI? Will the admin staff realize that a corner cut to save money years ago has now cost the system $200,000?

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The perfect ratio 

1 Junior Mint to 4 Reese's Pieces.

I stand by that claim. Feel free to find you own perfect ratio. For me, 1 to 4 is perfect.



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