Life-altering emergencies

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.

January 16, 2012 1:18:48 PM PST
It happens just-like-that.

Emergency situations with no notice and with life-changing ramifications.

We see that giant cruise ship, on its side and halfway under water. We see the house in West Haverstraw in Rockland County - destroyed by a natural gas leak. And we see it with a cop in Paramus, New Jersey, returning to work today - a year after she was shot on a snowy onramp on the Parkway (shot - but she still someone managed to fire off more than a dozen shots at the guy who shot her).

What we do in those critical few first seconds can determine whether we live or die. Much of it is training - whether it's the professional kind that cops and firefighters get, or whether it's the drum-it-in-your-head kind of crisis training average people should be initiating with their own families.

We're keeping abreast of the stories mentioned above for our 11 p.m. newscast, but the notion of emergency preparedness is top-of-mind for me these days, as our 14th annual Operation 7 Save-A-Life campaign gets underway.

Tomorrow, with the help of firefighters from around the tri-state, we kick off our 2012 effort - which features handing out tens of thousands of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to folks who otherwise couldn't afford them. And I'm profoundly proud to be part of this effort. As part of the campaign, we will have a live video chat with fire and burn experts on 7online this Thursday at 4:00 p.m. You can click here to submit questions now.

By the way - my carbon monoxide detector went through one of those "death rattles" this weekend. Turns out, CO detectors have shelf lives - usually about 7 years. And then they just stop working. So - replace your batteries twice a year (during the time change each spring and fall is best) and replace the whole contraption every 7 or so years.

I'm just sayin'.

Also at 11, Gov. Cuomo tomorrow set to unveil his dramatic reform of New York State's education system. It is time, says the Governor, to focus more on student achievement than teacher and staff job security. And he says his reform is in keeping with the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we commemorate today.

Public education, says the Governor, is supposed to be the great equalizer, but too often becomes the great discriminator.

There have been studies recently about the benefits for students of having great teachers - and the drawbacks of having poor teachers. One recent study measured it in terms of annual income. And the results are impressive: Good teachers do make a difference. And so do bad teachers.

My wife's family includes a couple of teachers - and so I'm sensitive to the political assaults teachers feel they're under. I'm also aware that my mother-in-law and sister-in-law were and are great teachers who see themselves making huge differences in their students' lives. They are not afraid of being held accountable; they are fearful of systems that judge them without a legitimate basis.

Let's not forget - and they remind me of this regularly - that the "No Child Left Behind" program has become a terrible ruler for judging student and teacher performances. Students study for the test, rather than for the knowledge. And teachers can tend to be concerned only about test scores, rather than about what students are really learning.

In any event, the Governor presents his plan tomorrow - and we'll preview it tonight at 11.

Also at 11, our Sandra Bookman takes a closer look at some of those New Year's resolutions that many women make - and she reports that losing weight and getting more exercise are fine, but making sure you get routine health screenings are essential.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports, including the Giants' victory over the Packers last night, and the team's road to the NFC championship game.

I hope you can join Liz Cho (in for Sade Baderinwa) and me, tonight at 11.


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