Valentine’s Day this year, was a busy schedule. After the usual office duties, with several errands to run I climbed in the truck about 3:00 PM. Approaching the traffic light outside the office the din of the radio was interrupted. The announcer stated they had reports of gun fire at a Parkland High School, exactly 9.5 miles from my location. I simultaneously heard the wail of sirens. As I looked around the area streets I could see emergency vehicles from law enforcement, fire rescue and medical emergency responders screaming north bound on University Drive from every direction. I got a sudden sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew this would be bad but had no idea how bad it would be.

Three months on we are hearing about security issues, responder explanations, leadership policy and a host of varied comments about fault, blame and remorse. Regardless one fact remains clear above all else; fourteen students and three teachers are dead. In the days ahead there will be plenty of time for investigations, discussions, statute changes, policy development, lawsuits and assigning blame. However, pointing fingers right now does no one any good toward future resolutions until investigations are complete.

In retrospect let us turn to some history for what we as a nation can and must do to correct, at least partially, the societal collapse we live in. I refer you to the following article about a fire that occurred at Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago, Illinois December 1, 1958. Ninety-two students and three teachers lost their lives that day in the fire. It was the defining moment that we as a nation suddenly realized we had to act in a positive manner to protect the innocent people in our education system from this horrible emergency. In the magazine ‘Fire Engineering’ Adam Groves has written an amazing summary of the fire and its aftermath on the fiftieth anniversary, December 1, 2008. The article is as relevant nearly ten years on with the advent of the sixtieth anniversary. Here is the web link:

http://www.fireengineering.com/articles/print/volume-161/issue-12/features/our-lady-of-the-angels-school-fire-50-years-later.html

Additionally, there is a copy of the full post-fire report available at www.nfpa.org available to members.

Since that wakeup call with the designs that were developed, evolving technology and structured codes this nation has put a virtual halt to fire loss of life for students in our elementary, middle and high schools.  We did this because we had a dedicated group of professionals who made it their business to do so. They knew they had to; they had the means, the motive and rolled up their sleeves stopping the fire monster cold. They vowed no more lives lost through fire at our neighborhood schools.

As tragic as this event was, hopefully Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School will serve as the same defining moment. Let us realize we have the means and the motive to stop loss of life in our schools from the killing actions of disturbed individuals. By taking the same analytical approach the fire professionals did previously, we can and will solve this issue. The repetitive lethal actions that have occurred for so many years have been analyzed and studied ad nauseam, but we have consistently done nothing to change the system. As a result, death and destruction keep reigning down on us.

It is not too much to ask that the best minds in the nation convene and tackle this issue in depth for change and positive results. Many of the ideas have already been put into practice in other states and have proved their worth over several years. As dictated in our constitution we want to reasonably expect each day to bring us the ability to enjoy ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. That’s what makes us a better society and nation, working together to conquer these problems.

On behalf of the Officers, Directors and Members of the Alarm Association of Florida we extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and students affected by this unspeakable act.

Bob Neely

Executive Director

Alarm Association of Florida