Safety & Security

An Honor to Serve

The past four months have truly been a blur for the dedicated staff of our nonproft campus safety center. Several of our personnel have only had two or three days off, counting weekends and holidays, since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I took Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, but have worked every day since then. I keynoted a couple of dozen times, worked on nearly 30 school security assessment projects, conducted evaluations for several major court cases and have been working on course development for part of the White House School Safety Initiative.

We are also finding time working on a new book for release in bookstores next fall. The pace and travel has been a bit challenging even to people who are used to being on the road more than they are at home.

However, as I have told our staff, the families who lost loved ones in Newtown have not had a day off from the pain of this terrible event since that fateful day. They will experience far more nights of inadequate sleep than we will in the months and years ahead. When people ask us how we can work 12-to 16- hour days, seven days a week, for months at a time, I offer this perspective. When your work is a calling that you are passionate about, it makes it relatively easy to endure (what are in reality) only mild inconveniences. Since our analysts and support personnel see their role as a mission rather than a job, they work tirelessly and without complaint. Their dedication is an inspiration to me.

As a public safety practitioner for roughly half of my lifetime, I was blessed to have had the privilege to serve with many outstanding human beings with this type of focus. Sergeant Ed Roney, who has served with the Mercer University Police Department for more than two decades, once risked his life by exposing himself to gunfire to protect a co-ed in danger. He always came to work with an eagerness to make our university a safe place. His chief of police, Gary Collins, served our country in combat in Vietnam, served honorably as well with the Macon Police Department and has provided the type of leadership that allows Ed and other dedicated men and women to protect and serve students, faculty, staff and visitors at my alma mater.

I have written a book, and if time permitted, could pen several more describing the incredible valor, commitment and innovations of the brave men and women I had the honor to serve with at the Bibb County School District Police Department. Officer Kenneth Bronson disarmed a man who was high on drugs and attempting to decapitate one of our building principals with a machete. Sergeant Steve Meadows rode a police mountain bike into a gunfight between rival gangs to protect the students who were departing from a high school down the street from the shootout. Nothing to this day in an action movie can inspire me as much as these and countless other acts of valor and other outstanding school district police officers I served with.

I encountered many other dedicated men and women of service to others at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency — Office of the Governor. Though typically not exposed as regularly to life-threatening danger, my colleagues at the agency also often had their lives disrupted for weeks, and even months, at a time when a tornado caused death and destruction, or some other calamity required emergency management personnel to spring into action on a moment’s notice.

Charlie English, Charlie Dawson, Micah Hamrick, Joe Adams, Brock Long and many other fine individuals also inspired me with their hard work, dedication to the agency mission and selfless service.

Taking some time to reflect on a fight home after a series of very long weeks, I cannot help but be inspired by the memories of the hundreds of outstanding men and women I have been afforded the honor to call colleagues. You see, though there is much tragedy in the world, there is no shortage of outstanding men and women whose focus in life is to serve others at all costs.

This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of School Planning & Management.

About the Author

Michael Dorn serves as the executive director for Safe Havens International, Inc., an IRS-approved, nonprofit safety center. He has authored and co-authored more than 20 books on campus safety. He can be reached through the Safe Havens website at www.safehavensinternational.org.

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