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I write this in gratitude of the response our local emergency services provided during a mass casualty shooting yesterday and also to the school my sons attend. I also write this to my colleagues in Public Safety as a gentle reminder that training does pay off.

" It Happened Here "

Yesterday, March 8, 2012, a mass casualty incident occurred at the Western Psychiatric Institute Clinic. There were several people shot, a police officer injured and two dead. The response was quick and initially resolved by the heroic efforts of a University of Pittsburgh Campus Police Officer. That police officer fatally wounded the shooter and as a result, saved many other lives. One other was killed, reportedly, a WPIC employee coming into work. We have heard from previous shootings the phrase, “ I can’t believe it happened here !” Well it did and it does happen here ! I’ll take this opportunity right now to thank several public safety agencies and officers, including my former colleagues in the Pittsburgh Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, the Bureau of Pittsburgh Police, the University of Pittsburgh Police Department and the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County SWAT Teams, and Emergency Management Agencies thereof with the complete resolution of that incident. I am most grateful to the Pittsburgh Public School System and the Principal of the Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy who implemented a lock down plan to keep my sons and other children as safe as possible. There are so many mass shootings in our recent history. ( Columbine, Virginia Tech, Chardon High School, Nickel Mines, Tucson , Arizona , Fort Hood, Texas and the list goes on.) No one will truly understand the reasons why these types of incidents occur. We can never truly pre-plan these incidents and therefore cannot be fully prepared to handle one when we do. As emergency responders though, we do the best we can with our pre-planning drills, meetings and we rely on previous incidents to educate us for future ones. That last statement is such a sad statement to make. Much of what we do as firefighters, emts, paramedics and police officers involves reactions. We react to these incidents. We do try to be pro-active with preventative measures like crime prevention, fire prevention and injury prevention programs, but it only goes a certain distance, many times, just reaching those in attendance and going no further. Having said that, there is a need for us to do more of that type of pro-active work. But otherwise, we do what we do and we keep doing it, in the best interest of public safety. That’s what we do. It’s instilled in us. We are born with it, as emergency responders. Many of us know at a very young age what we will be doing in our future when we watch the police car, ambulance or big red fire truck rush on by as they respond to an emergency. I can tell you quite honestly that I was quite torn yesterday at this incident. My reaction was two-fold. I wasn’t a part of the response yesterday, but knew and have worked with several who did and I knew their duties in that dangerous situation. Quite simply. “Get in, Get them and Get them out!”. I wanted to be a part of it as I had been several times before, but it wasn’t to be. Yesterday required me to think and react as a parent as well as an emergency responder. My sons were ½ to 1 block away from this mass shooting. My initial reaction was to rush in and get them out. Thankfully my calmer head prevailed and I allowed for the pre-response planning of the school, and the training and quick response of everyone who did respond do their work and I didn’t hamper that. This incident, as well as others, test the resolve of a lot of people. Training, planning, professionalism and a thorough attention to detail of this or any incident is what brings them to resolution. We saw that yesterday, here in hometown, Pittsburgh. “ It happened here !” Unfortunately, we will see it tomorrow somewhere else. Stay safe, stay trained and stay strong ! And thanks again to all who responded and reacted yesterday ! I am most grateful !

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