Once upon a time, school was considered a reasonably safe place for people to spend eight or more hours of their day. Not so much these days.
What has changed is that now we know that knowing what to do in a crisis can save lives. The Newtown, Conn. shooting wasn’t as bad as it could have been because the students and staff had training to prepare them for exactly that kind of event. Today, students need a plan of action, not an opportunity for reaction.
But a Google search for “school shootings in the United States” provides a list that is long and begins in 1764. It seems things haven’t changed all that much.
At Emporia State, we have been told that we have policies in place and a great crisis alert system. What happens when the Rave System for mobile texting isn’t accessible?
Believe it or not, some students can’t afford a phone. What if a student left their phone at home? In the case of the Boston Marathon bombing, cell phones were turned off because of concerns that mobile devices were being used as remote detonators. Just having a warning system isn’t good enough.
Some people have told me to follow the crowd. Back in February when gunshots were fired near campus, the trusted Rave system wasn’t utilized at all. I immediately started walking in the opposite direction while all the other students I saw that night seemed oblivious and behaved as if nothing had happened. Following students that don’t know what’s going on and don’t know what to do isn’t a plan at all.
I am a big advocate for knowing your options, planning ahead and taking responsibility for yourself. I encourage students to find out what exactly they should do in various emergency situations.
There are signs locating emergency fire exits and pointing out tornado shelters. But what do you do when something out of the ordinary happens? I haven’t found any kind of directions for cases like the earthquake aftershocks we felt in 2011, nor can I find information on what to actually do if there is a gunman on campus.
A basic search of the ESU website came up empty. Dependence on a warning system that has, thus far, failed us and isn’t accessible to every single student, is an inadequate plan at best and a recipe for disaster at worst.
I urge our administrators to give students the tools to plan ahead and save our lives.