“Active Shooter On Oregon Community College Campus!” was the CNN News feed to my smart phone. My blood began to race and I nearly dropped my phone bringing up more details. I have two grandkids in the local community college. As it turned out it was another campus about 60 miles away.
Stories of heroism along with stories of unthinkable insanity are still coming out. Political types are quick to make hay of one form or another. Everyone in Southwestern Oregon is grieving not only the tragic losses, but just the fact that “this happened here!”
Police train and school administrators plan for what they hope will never happen on their watch. Lockdown drills are held in schools all across the country. Some states even require periodic lockdowns. But no amount of preplanning can cover every contingency. The day after the Umpqua Community College shooting, certain mis-information and misguided posts on social media led to mid-morning school shutdowns in our own county. Every police officer, paramedic and emergency room worker knows that scared people behave badly. That’s where dozens of mildly (to not-so-mildly) anxious parents began arriving at schools to pick up not only their own children, but in some cases, their friends’ kids as well. Phone calls clogged lines into the administrative offices, and traffic flow problems restricted the movement of school busses. Add to this certain school policies designed to keep kids safe by restricting who can pick up whom and you’ve got the recipe for a secondary disaster.
Now take this to the next level. Let’s suppose there is a natural disaster. We’ll use “earthquake” just for the sake of discussion. The roads are busted up, the phone lines are completely down, electrical power is out and the schools are full of our kids. Have you discussed this scenario with your family? Do you have a plan to reunite your family if this happens? Even if schools can deliver your children home, is anyone going to be there? Who have you authorized to pick up your children at the school if you can’t get there? Do your kids know what to do? These are all questions families need to address and get settled now, before something happens.
Likewise, schools need to work on disaster planning. Is there a drill that can be designed to simulate a disaster and how do we pull it off. Something that goes beyond the lockdown or the “soft lockdown”. How do we make it work when nothing else (like phones) does? Fire drills are proven to save lives and have for decades. Lockdown drills, unscheduled school closure drills and serious disaster drills will save lives as well.
To plan for just such a contingency, some schools have purchased lockdown kits. The kit is usually stored in a five-gallon bucket and contains water pouches, food bars, first-aid supplies, and many other items considered useful to weather such an incident. Some even include a snap-on toilet seat/lid complete with toilet bags to provide for the sanitary needs that would eventually arise. Ideally each classroom would have a kit with enough supplies to meet the needs of several students. One kit I checked out sold for $70.00 and contained 30 water pouches. It also had a battery powered radio, several light sticks and several other items.
It is unfortunate we have had to turn our schools into fortresses, but with the right planning and some supplies on hand, we can make our schools safer for our kids.
As always, send your comments and questions to Disasterprep.firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous columns can be found on my blog www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is the Postmaster in Bandon, Oregon, and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us”.