Hardly a week goes by anymore that we don’t hear of a school shooting. A generation ago such an incident was entirely unheard of, and the term “school shooting” was a foreign concept. Now we all know immediately what happened. Some nutjob decided to make a name for himself by shooting up a school, including the taking of innocent life and more often than not, taking his own life when he’s backed into a corner.
Every time this happens, I seem to have difficulty sorting out my feelings. Anger, that this could happen to innocent lives, both students and teachers. Frustration that we, as a nation, can’t seem to put a stop to these tragedies. And then there’s always the call by high-decibel politicians for more and stricter gun laws. If a person is deranged enough to shoot up a school, is he really going to be deterred by one more law?
This is the nightmare every school administrator prays never happens. Police officers 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. Every police officer, paramedic and emergency room worker knows that scared people behave badly. That’s when dozens of mildly (to not-so-mildly) anxious parents begin 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.
As always send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com and other online booksellers.