Working in the crisis management space can be exhilarating, maddening, saddening and satisfying; often, it’s all of these at once.

The opportunity to work with and help so many individuals and businesses prepare for, manage through and recover from crisis is a wonderful feeling. We are impacting lives and helping people every single day. It’s challenging work, but fulfilling to know we are making an impact.

After the recent school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, I experienced a moment that was more saddening and scarier than most. First, it became very clear to me that, as a whole, we are becoming desensitized to these types of tragedies. It amazed me how many people I talked to throughout that day had not yet heard about the incident.

Seems impossible, right? There was a lot of coverage – some might say heightened coverage – but many folks said things like, “Oh, I missed that. I thought it was one of the other ones,” or “Oh yeah, I guess I saw that somewhere, but didn’t really realize it was happening today.”

Second, I saw an interview with one of the students from the high school – a sophomore or junior, I think. She was being interviewed by a reporter who was trying to drive home the surprise of the situation, using the “I thought it could never happen here” line of thought. But the student, in a very direct response with a somewhat emotionless expression, said, and I can only paraphrase here, “No, we knew it could happen. It was really more a matter of when.”

My heart sank, and that sadness really took over.

It is clear that we are living in a new reality. And while I don’t want to scare anyone, or try to use scare tactics to get folks to prepare for the worst, I do think it’s important that we take stock of this new reality and what is happening right before our eyes. Our children certainly are doing so, as evidenced by the high schooler in Santa Fe.

We need to engage our children, our teachers and our total school community in a way that educates and prepares them to think about, and plan for, safety and security in a whole new way. A conversation about metal detectors, arming teachers or fortifying windows and doors is an important thing, but not the only thing. Discussions about mental health, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), trauma-informed care, peer support, situational awareness, de-escalation techniques and violence prevention are just a few of the other things that need to be part of the conversation. This is a complicated challenge that will require a complex approach. It won’t be one solution or millions of dollars that solve the issue. There is no silver bullet.

These are hard conversations, but we need to have them. Not only around schools, either, but also around communities and businesses as well. In order to create safety and comfort for our children – in their schools, in their homes, in their neighborhoods and cities – we need to be prepared to leave our comfort zones and think and act differently.

The best emergency responses are the ones that have been prepared for, practiced and executed by teams that trust and support each other. We must be willing to create and execute new collaborations and new learning approaches, and we have to be able to listen to each other and work together. This is a crisis; we need a much better response plan and approach, and we need it quickly.