No amount of training can prepare for every possible eventuality

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Let's be careful out there," Sgt. Esterhaus used to tell officers on the old "Hill Street Blues" television series.

That was good advice then and it continues to be good advice, whether you're a police officer, paramedic or civilian.

The problem is, sometimes it isn't good enough.

It wasn't good enough Monday at the Boston Marathon when the two pressure-cooker bombs went off near the finish line.

It wasn't good enough Wednesday night when the fertilizer plant blew up at West, Texas, claiming victims that included emergency responders trained to "be careful" in every action they take, including responding to the initial fire at the plant.

The Texas tragedy is still unfolding, but it dwarfs the Boston explosions that left three dead and many others still in critical condition.

Initial reports from West include 15 dead, 160 injured and a four-block area leveled, including 50 t0 75 houses, a middle school, a nursing home and a 50-unit apartment complex reduced to "a skeleton."

Slower to emerge are the stories of heroism and good fortune like those that emerged from the marathon -- where dozens of medical personnel were on duty right next to the finish line. But we do know volunteers sprang to action in Texas, helping get trapped nursing home residents to safety.

Professional responders and civilians alike need to do all they can to be prepared for any emergency, whether it be natural or manmade, and that preparation pays off when the situations arise.

But no amount of physical or mental training can prepare one for every eventuality, as recent events demonstrate. In situations like these, only personal character can determine whether or not we make the right response.

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