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Monday, January 27, 2014

Yes, it can happen in Columbia

     Over the years when the cable news channel would be covering a mall or school shooting I would naturally wonder what it would be like if the event was happening at a local school or the Columbia Mall.  Yesterday unfortunately we all got to experience what that would be like.  It was eerie to see the Mall as the backdrop for press conferences with local officials talking about the tragedy.  We are all more comfortable in reading about our community as making another top 10 list for being a great community in which to live.
      In a strange way the manner in which Saturday's tragedy was handled is another example of why this community is a great place to live.  The police response and Mall management deserve praise for how efficiently the tragedy was handled and  shows how prepared they were for this event.  Over and over you heard the police praise the Mall management for how they have been a partner in preparing for this type of event.  Howard County police were on the scene of the shooting 2 minutes after the 911 call.
      A couple of years ago I used to attend the meetings of the Community Emergency Response Network (CERN).  This network brought together on a regular schedule community organizations in Howard County to discuss and prepare for emergencies. Rich Krieg, the Horizon Foundation, the Howard County Government and others deserve praise for having the forethought to have established this network.     This network was set up with a focus on terrorist threats (we are near DC and NSA) and mass shootings.  The education and preparedness was shown to be critical in an event like the one on Saturday.   I remember meetings where the police and Mall management talked about how often they have training sessions of shooting and hostage situations.  This occurred regularly after the Mall closed.  Other Maryland and Federal law enforcement officers participated and were trained in these sessions. It wouldn't surprise me that similar trainings have occurred in one of our local schools.
       Understanding that the Mall is a likely target the HoCo police usually have an officer in the Mall when it is open and often one in the parking lot.  This law enforcement training and the training of all Mall employees on how to "shelter in place" may very well have been responsible for Saturday's tragedy not becoming worse with greater casualties. Being proactive is such an important characteristic of our local officials and organizations.  It may not be apparent until an event like Saturday's tragedy.  As we file our taxes this year and complain about how much tax we pay, yesterday's events show how those taxes are worth what we pay to our various governments.  Think about that the next time you hear a politician say that "government is the problem."

     With our town such a focus with the news media on Saturday I noticed a trend that I have blogged on before.  I received calls from family and friends scattered all over the Country.  What was interesting was the the younger the person calling the more likely they heard about it on social media and the older the person the more likely they heard about it by watching cable news.  Talk about a generational shift!

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    To show another example of how social media has changed our world     At the time of the shooting I had just left the parking area of the Maryland State Police Building on Route 1 (look for my blog this week on the changing face of Route 1).   Right after I pulled out a number of State Police cars left the station with lights and sirens on.  The State Police Emergency Incident Command Center vehicle soon came down Route 1 with lights and siren.  Of course my first thought was to look at twitter to see if anyone else had posted something on what might be happening.  The HoCo Police had already posted on the shooting at the Mall with multiple casualties.   A word of praise for whoever is responsible for twittering at the HoCo Police Department.  Their accurate and timely twittering of the events knocked down many rumors and gave us frequent updates on the event.

    Comment overheard yesterday from a family member, "Do I shop at the Mall and worry about a copycat shooter or go to Target and get my identity stolen."  Truly a shopper's dilemma!

P.S. 3

Pity the poor geese who have to sit on a frozen Lake Elkhorn


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