Friday, April 20, 2007

In Case of an Emergency, Check Your Email

Today's topic, boys and girls, is public safety.

Since the Virginia Tech shootings, we at Zenith have been in receipt of several emails assuring us that:

1. Students have been reminded of the counseling services available to them. (I already feel safer. Thank you.)

2. Zenith "has a preparedness plan" for a life-threatening crisis, which includes giving us as-yet-mysterious information via the web, email, cell phone, and text messaging. Zenith will also "work through the Residential Life staff to get the word out in person." This last means, I think sending the deans and other administrators running around the campus to tell us what horrible thing is happening, hopefully on the other side of the campus.

3. Zenith has sent out a second email ascertaining that they have our correct email and cell phone numbers. How *did* they get my cell phone number? Scary.

Apparently Zenith Public Safety has also been working with Homeland ("You're doing a great job, Brownie") Security and Middletown's Finest (don't even start) to prepare an emergency drill. I have never seen anyone drill, and I have never been asked to drill, but apparently there is a drill. Most of us just don't know what it is. But if something bad happens, a Dean who has already been drilled will come and reveal the drill. And then, presumably, we can relax.

I'm not saying they don't mean well. But it does strike me as evidence that we are missing the boat here on so many levels. The Virginia Tech lessons seem to be that: we can't prepare for mass murder carried out by an amoral lunatic; people will get guns whether there are restrictive laws or not; students who are deranged will be the last to seek counseling on their own; and communication is never perfect, particularly since people have to decide when and what to communicate. And if you can communicate with your students and faculty, what do you tell them that won't cause mass panic and make them either clump in classrooms and dorms where they are easier to kill in large numers, or send them running around campus where they might be going *towards* danger?

Finally -- if only the people in charge know what the drill is, how are we supposed to know how to obey when we are all scared off our nut? Because they will just shout at us? And what if no one shows up to tell you what to do? They don't have a dean for every classroom, or even every building. Yet. And when was the last time you saw a faculty member take a direct order from an administrator? (Dean: "Please stay in your classroom and hide under the desk." Faculty member: "Has this been voted on by a constituted quorum of the Faculty Senate? I think not.")

As for the messages I would be getting as all my electronic devices go off: thanks for getting in touch but -- what's the word, Bird? "Wacko roaming campus with guns. Stay inside. Or outside if the wacko comes inside." I knew this already.

Frankly, I got much better advice from the comments on my blog: pile furniture against the door and slow the motherf***er down. Be discouraging, so s/he goes next door to Anthropology or Admissions. Fight like hell if trapped. Protect your students first. Jump out the windows and run really, really fast. If I recall from the movies, should someone really be shooting, zig zag a little.

And don't carry a gun unless you are trained to use it and have a permit. Fortunately this is not a problem for Utah public school teachers who have had the opportunity since last October to use some of their in-service training for a free class that will help qualify them for concealed weapons permits. Woo-hoo!

Wouldn't you feel safer if *your* teacher was packing? Don't look at me: at Zenith, we will be whacking people over the head with our Blackberries and Treos.


Tim Lacy said...

TR said: "But if something bad happens, a Dean who has already been drilled will come and reveal the drill. And then, presumably, we can relax." Funny! Something about your tone here reminds me of a Monty Python skit. Maybe this Dean will also bring her/his Holy Hand Grenade?! - TL

ajnabieh said...

a good friend was an ra in a dorm in lower manhattan in the fall of 2001. on sept. 11, the first word was that their dorm would not be evacuated; it was just far enough from the towers that they wanted to let people who were nearer escape first, and they didn't want more people making more traffic.

so my friend and her co-ra start doing the floors. they knock on every door and patiently, patiently explain, again and again, that the students are NOT to leave their rooms. they are to stay in the dorm and not go anywhere. yes, the largest terrorist attack in american history just occured fifteen blocks from here. no, you are not to run away.

just as they get to the stairs to do the next floor, the head-ra (or someone similar) runs up to them and says, ok, time to evacuate. i'll go tell this floor.

and my friend calmly avoids punching anyone and says, no, they won't believe you. and she and her co-ra go back and do the whole. floor. again.

because emergencies involve people. that means they involve heroes, and idiots, and bureaucracies.

Anonymous said...

The email from my university was similarly not reassuring. "We have a plan! Based on evidence from VA Tech, it's pretty much the same plan that doesn't work, but we have a plan!"

GaryB said...

Someone said that there's no technical solution to violence ... which immediately makes me think ah ha!: "There is!"

Sure'nuf, just take a read
Psychopaths are wired differently -- no wiring for empathy, bad signals to the frontal cortex. This will mean the utter end of privacy, but only to a Google like uber mind ... and anyhow, humans will not survive this century. We either die out or morph into something else. My bets are with the later -- you will be googled.