They did it right

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Following tragic deaths, especially when it involves young people, it is only natural to question what should have been done to prevent the deaths.

As difficult as it may be to accept, the answer to the question is "nothing" in the case of the four Boy Scouts, ages 13 and 14, who died as a result of a tornado that struck a Boy Scout camp in Monona County on Wednesday evening.

Actually, the survivors' ability to respond with courage and knowledge may have prevented the disaster from being worse. (See the AP article on page 5 - "Scouts praised for response after tornado hits Iowa camp")

The teens and adults at the camp sought shelter in the best location available. After the tornado, the Boy Scouts lived up to their "Be Prepared" motto in administering first aid and digging out others buried in rubble. Emergency services from many communities responded rapidly to the scene. Requests for blood donations received an immediate and overwhelming response throughout the area.

This particular disaster seemed unusual in the fact that the death toll didn't rise after the immediate report of four deaths and over 40 injured. The usual pattern involves subsequent deaths from among those seriously injured. It must be assumed that the absence of further deaths resulted from the Boy Scout first aid training, availability of first aid materials and the rapid response of emergency services.

There might be an after-the-fact consideration of building a storm shelter at the camp but it might not be practical to build one that could have accommodated the more than 120 kids and adults who were at the camp at the time of the tornado. Certainly, we cannot expect such storm shelters to be built at every location in the country where there are campers or trailer occupants.

The unavoidable fact is that natural disasters will sometimes claim lives, despite our best efforts. That is a particularly bitter truth right now for four families of deceased Boy Scouts.