Notes and notables: Hurricane prep, life-saving technology, scary clowns

Heed the hurricane

Nearly 1,000 people have died in Haiti and the devastation of Hurricane Matthew left that beleaguered island in what its president called "an apocalyptic situation." In the U.S., the storm left dozens dead and cut a swath of flooding, destruction and power outages from Florida to North Carolina.

By comparison, Hampton Roads wasn't hit as hard. We had flooding in the usual areas and widespread power outages and three deaths — men in Hampton, Isle of Wight and Suffolk — seem to have been at least partially attributable to the storm.

Once again, we are reminded of the wrath that nature can unleash on coastal regions during storm season. There are many reasons that our region is far less vulnerable than Haiti to overwhelming storm damage, but even so, those news reports — and especially the ones from the hardest-hit areas of the U.S. — should serve as warnings.

Because that could have been us.

We have been clobbered a few times in recent years — by Isabel in 2003 for example, and by Floyd in 1999. But there are still plenty of local residents, both long-timers and new arrivals, who tend to greet storm warnings with a shrug and a dismissive smirk. Their mantra is: It probably won't be that bad.

It probably won't. But it might, especially since there is considerable evidence to suggest that our region's evacuation plan is woefully inadequate and needs to be addressed before the next big one, not in its aftermath.

Every year at the start of hurricane season, we publish articles and editorials urging preparedness. And every year we see reminders of why that is important. Sometimes those reminders arrive here and sometimes we see them in news reports from other areas. Either way, the message should be heeded.

When it's hurricane season, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Don't panic but plan ahead. And never underestimate the potential punch that a storm can pack.

Heart-starting

It is so encouraging to learn that hundreds of Mathews County residents, some as young as middle schoolers, have taken advantage of a program offered by the local volunteer rescue squad on how to use emergency medical equipment.

Specifically, the 30-minute seminars teach the proper technique for automated external defibrilators — the portable devices that can re-start a human heart in cardiac arrest. Attendees also learn how to perform CPR while waiting for emergency medial professionals to arrive.

More and more, we are getting used to seeing the red boxes containing AEDs in schools, offices, stores and other public locations. But these life-saving gadgets don't provide a jump-start by themselves; they rely on everyday citizens who know how to use them. Programs such as the one in Mathews maximize the chances that a person in cardiac arrest can be resuscitated and saved.

Every municipality should work to arrange similar programs that literally put the ability to save a life at your fingertips.

No laughing matter

It has come to this: When police in Chesapeake investigated reports last week of a suspicious man walking near public schools carrying a pitchfork, the department found it not only necessary but important to stress that the man was not dressed as a clown. Strange days, indeed.

We don't know the origin of this whole "clown-sighting" phenomenon but it has overstayed its welcome. In recent days, we have had to write about a middle schooler who tried to hire a clown to kill her teacher, and about various schools responding to threats of clown appearances. Earlier this week, McDonald's announced it was cutting back on public appearances by Ronald McDonald, fearing that his grease-paint smile and oversized shoes might provoke more uneasiness than usual.

Hopefully, this nonsense will have run its course by Halloween and we get back to a place where we can once again think of clowns as nothing more than harmless fools who throw pies, toot horns and run for public office.

Roses and thorns

Each week, the Daily Press Editorial Board offers a list of area citizens or institutions deserving of "roses" or "thorns," when applicable.

This week's roses go to:

• Soldiers from Fort Eustis who have headed to Haiti to deliver emergency supplies and help those who were wiped out by the hurricane. We wish our local military men and women safe travels as they carry out their good works.

• The folks at Victorian Station in Phoebus (aka "Big Pink"), who have worked to develop that coffeehouse and eatery into one of the Peninsula's most eclectic venues for live music.

This week's thorns to go:

• A former mail processing clerk in Norfolk who was convicted of mail theft after pleading guilty to stealing thousands of dollars' worth of gift cards out of the thank you notes and birthday cards she handled. The "finders keepers" principle does not apply to public servants.

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