Category Archives: Natural Disasters

Am I A Bad Parent?

The piece I wrote regarding the flood alerts at Shorties school has generated a massive amount of interest. It was picked up by several American sites and the comments sections show the amount of polarisation of opinion that has been generated.

On the left, we have the educators. teachers and the like that think I am a bad parent and generally a scummy mummy for even suggesting that I should be allowed to collect my daughter in the event of an emergency. On the right, we have parents who feel as keenly as I do that they would want their kid home with them. There are a few fence sitters but not many. The left and right designations do not refer to anything remotely political by the way.

I feel it’s time to get a few things straight that my educator adversaries have failed to mention, and to add a bit of information that may help them see why I have made the choices I have. So, here we go.

  • I am not suggesting that parents turn up and ‘snatch’ children as has been suggested. I am suggesting that parents turn up, in an orderly fashion and collect their child, who can then be checked off the role and is no longer the responsibility of the school and the staff of the school.
  • I have no idea what training teachers, sorry, educators get in the United States but here there is a designated first aider and a stand in for if that person is unavailable. They know first aid and if you are very lucky may have done a CPR course.
  • In response to those who say a few inches of water cannot knock you off your feet, well you’re wrong, it all depends on the speed of the water and your body mass. We are talking children here. Children who will be afraid and possibly cold and wet. Also, remember you can drown in a cat bowl of water if your nose and mouth are in the dish.
  • I do not agree that my child should be removed into the care of social services because of my views and my future actions should there be a flood…and here’s why:

I have rarely ever taken the step of qualifying why I feel able to take an action that many people disagree with, but, for the record, I am going to state bluntly why I feel my child would be safer with me than with the staff at school.

  • I am a qualified medical professional with some 30 years of experience.
  • I am a former major incident and catastrophe team leader for a large metropolitan geographical area.
  • I am a qualified lifeguard (pool)
  • I am a qualified advanced PADI diver trained to rescue diver level and with 15 specialities under my (weight) belt.
  • I am an active water sports enthusiast, as is my husband and my child. We have a garage full of kit that attests to this. A paddle board, complete with lanyard is an excellent 10-foot floatation device, as are surfboards and windsurf boards, the kyack speak for themselves, as do the tanks, wet suits, dry suits, paddles and life vests that make up the rest of our various kits.

Now. Think about this carefully.

  1. There’s a flood. Water is coming up the street. Would you prefer your kid to be in a place where there is access to specialist kit made to be used in sea water or not?
  2. Would you prefer your child to be with a strong swimmer who has spent every spare moment for 50 years in the water or with a teacher who has not?
  3. Would you prefer your child to be with someone who has experience of handling emergencies, who has been there, seen it and done it or with a group of people who have only drills for experience?

My child is my reason for living, she is, to me, the most important thing on the planet. If I for one moment believed she would be safer in the school with the staff she would be staying there, but in this, I really don’t believe that is the case.

To those who believe I’m wrong, that’s your right, I believe wholeheartedly in freedom of speech and you are entitled to your opinions and I will not try in any way to change them. What I will say though is this:

If you really believe that you are right, and you live in an area where specific natural disasters such as flooding can occur, you owe it to the kids in your care, and to the parents of those kids to go and get some specialist training in that particular type of disaster.

I would never try to say my abilities as an educator are better than yours, that is what you are trained to do and other than teaching people how to deal with major catastrophes, give an anaesthetic or stop someone bleeding to death it is not what I am trained to do.

Finally, as educated men and women, I should not have to remind you of the basic and simple fact that if you make a mistake at work there’s a good chance you can Tippex it and carry on. Possibly the worst effect a major mistake can have on you is that you lose your job. If I make a mistake we call the coroner and then tell the family that their loved one has died. The worst thing that happens to me is I am charged with clinical neglect, the case is proved and I spend many years in prison thinking about the person my actions killed.

Drills are all well and good, and they are an essential part of life but let me tell you bluntly that nothing, and I mean nothing, prepares you for the first time you are staring at a corpse that a short while before was a live person in your care.

Nothing prepares you for tying a rope around your waist and crawling into an upturned car at 0300 and finding a torso in the front seat and a head in the back seat.

Nothing prepares you for the first time you attend a rail crash (Hatfield 2000), a nail-bombing (Soho 1999) or a plane crash (Kegworth 1989). No amount of training prepares you for a disaster, you know the mechanics of what you should do, but the fear, the emotion and even the smell of such incidents can’t be prepared for.

A disaster doesn’t have to be bloody and full of bodies to stun someone into inaction, the magnitude of the situation, coupled with the overwhelming feeling of helplessness is enough to cause a mental and physical freeze. How do you, my critics, know that you will cope in a real emergency?

I have seen a qualified and very competent doctor intubate (put a breathing tube in the trachea) of a man who was dead, who was visibly dead, he had been cut in half, life was extinct. This exceptionally talented doctor, who I am happy to say has continued his medical career without incident, was so fixated on doing what he had been taught to during the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) training that he couldn’t move on until he had intubated his ‘patient’. The manual and the drills had taught him that those with head injuries needed to be intubated, neither had said anything about a patient only having half a body and he said later that he had not even realised that the man had been cut in half, he was so fixated on the facial trauma. It was dark, it was foggy, it was pouring with rain, there were cars on fire, a truck overturned, a dog was running up and down the carriageway barking. There were blue lights flashing everywhere, police and firemen, ambulances lined up ( this was before we had paramedics in the UK, a hospital trauma team attended these incidents) The smell of blood and mud and fuel, the carnage on the side of the motorway that night had overwhelmed him. Once he had intubated the man he moved onto the next task with no argument. There is just no telling how it will go that first time. You cannot assume that all will be fine because you have practiced and you know the drill.

Do you have the confidence to deviate from the  prescribed method of doing things if the situation warrants it? Are you aware enough of the dangers posed by the emergency to understand all the possible consequences of your actions and then go ahead anyway? Or are you the type who plays it by the book so that afterwards you are absolved of responsibility if something has gone horribly wrong?

I am not anti-teacher, and some teachers, sadly not at my daughter’s current school, would make me feel very confident that they would cope in an emergency and that my child would be in good hands. The likes of Todd Walker, The Survival Sherpa, would be one of the most ideal teachers on the planet should an emergency occur. Sadly most teachers are not like Todd.

Okay, you now know my qualifications and how they apply to emergency situations. Unless you have more experience of disasters than I do I suggest you be quiet or go off and sprout you indignation elsewhere.

If by any chance Todd walker is reading this…I should be so lucky, I wonder if he and Mrs Todd would be interested in free bed and board in exchange for teaching a few UK educators some of his skills. They may like him more than they like me.

Take Care,

Liz