The Protect IU Blog
Thoughts on September
September is Emergency Preparedness Month, and I’ve been thinking about the way we look at emergencies and preparing for them a little differently now than we once did.
I know that emergency preparedness isn’t really new. I remember grade school fire drills, practicing a safe and orderly exit from the building and gathering in a safe place. And “sheltering in place” tornado drills. We sat on the floor in the hallway of the school building, back against the lockers, heads between our knees and covered by arms and hands to protect ourselves from falling, blowing objects.
And then there were bomb shelters. I begged my parents to build one after my classmates and I drilled our eighth-grade history teacher about what countries would be on “our side” if the Cubans launched missiles the direction of the U.S.
What is different now, it seems to me, is that there actually is a FEMA-orchestrated Emergency Preparedness Month…not to mention a Department of Homeland Security and an IU Emergency and Continuity office. There is a completely new interdisciplinary field dealing with strategies for mitigating, preparing, responding and recovering from critical incidents. Now it’s about planning strategically for minimizing loss and protecting critical assets. Those are good things.
I don’t mean to suggest that institutions were not aware before of the responsibility to try and keep people safe. A bunch of fifth graders sitting in the hallway, heads down and covered, is proof that they did. But now there is a newly heightened sense of vulnerability and urgency now drives emergency preparedness.
Why wouldn’t there be? National complacency got the boot 11 years ago this September in 2001 when hijacked airliners crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people.
And in the years since then, other nearly unthinkable events kicked the lesson home. Think 2004’s Hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster historically costly both in dollars -- with property loss estimated at $81 billion -- and in human life -- with at least 1,836 people killed.
For those of us in education, think Virginia Tech in 2007. Just eight Aprils after two teenagers killed 13 people and then themselves at Denver’s Columbine High School, a mentally ill student at Virginia Tech killed 32 people and wounded 25 others.
There is another difference that creates urgency. Media – both old and new – usher emergencies right across the front door’s welcome mat and into our living rooms. We watch in real time as tornadoes toss aside school busses and explode houses, and in a matter of minutes, we see storm victims weep for what they have lost, and at the same time, for what has not been taken. TV and computer screens allow us to bear witness just short of immediately as planes crash into buildings, as teenagers stalk the school library, weapons ready.
So, I think you, too, should consider September and Emergency Preparedness Month. I know you are tempted to leave it all up to fate, because you probably won’t ever need to implement an office or home emergency preparedness plan. Right? Well, I hope you don’t have to, but the truth is that emergencies – among other things -- happen.
Are you ready? Go to http://www.ready.gov/ to learn how to prepare, plan and stay informed.