Honestly, I try to live a normal, productive life. A life without angst or worry, a happy life. But sometimes…
About a month ago, our district admin requested that the board put on review an update of Policy EBCC, Hazardous Threats. Mainly, this deals with bomb threats, e.g., a scrawled note in a restroom stall that gives notice that the school will be vaporized at such and such a time. The proposed policy update reflects current practice legitimated by recommendations from police, fire, and other emergency response agencies.
Last Tuesday, at the regular board of ed meeting, we had the recommendation from the superintendent to approve the revision. Actually, it was a revision of the revision’s revision, because there had been a great deal of feedback during the review period, and a lot of it came from yours truly. Admin graciously worked to accommodate the feedback, which was mostly concerned with allaying the fears of building staff who, because the original draft spoke of them “searching” their areas, thought they were in danger of being blown to kingdom come.
Back before the Civil War, when I was just a kid, I was trained in Ordnance Reconnaissance and Bomb Disposal by a Washington State US Army Reserve group tasked with just that. I was a young sheriff’s deputy (criminal division, patrol, second night shift), and the sheriff wanted his folks to be able to at least recognize danger, if not actually do something about it. (The bomb disposal training part was, I believe, just to scare the rat poo out of us, so we’d have some respect for the recon aspect of our job. We had to disarm briefcase and cigar box bombs that, instead of blowing us into the next world would merely set off a flashbulb to signal our demise. A lot of us got flashed with the accompanying unpleasant adrenaline rush.)
Long story short, as a guy who’d had some years in law enforcement and a career in teaching, I felt deeply for the building staffs, because the word “search” was not defined in the policy. In pre-microchip days, there were five ways (and any combination thereof) to set off bombs, one of them being motion. (Nowadays, I don’t even want to think about it.)
Here are some synonyms for “search” from the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:
1 Synonyms SCOUR 2, beat, comb, finecomb, fine-tooth-comb, forage, grub, rake, ransack, rummage
Related Word run down, scout (around), scrimmage, skirmish
Idioms search high and low
2 to subject (a person) to a thorough check for concealed or contraband articles *police searching the suspects for weapons*
Synonyms ||fan, frisk, shake down
Related Word check, examine; inspect, look over, scan, scrutinize, study
Needless to say, I was not enamored of the word “search.” Certified and classified union presidents were both up in arms, as would be expected, because a bomb could easily be set of by being bumped by an innocent staff “searcher.”
Well, after all that discussion and written feedback, our policy will reflect that staff, when requested, and if a threat is not credible enough to evacuate the building, will be asked to visually scan their areas (the theory being they’d be the ones to spot anomalies). If a threat was credible enough to evacuate, no staff would be asked to return to the building, even for that visual scan.
If you want an eye opener, check to see if the police or fire people in your area are trained for hazardous threat response. I think my old sheriff, back in the mid-1960s, may have been ahead of the curve.
Because there was so much discussion and revision (although I was pleased with the final draft), the board voted to continue the review until July. In any case, I believe staff fears were allayed, and I felt a lot better about it too.
One last thought: anyone who works in a public building should keep an eye peeled for anything out of the ordinary. Threats were the subject of this policy, but if anything bad is gonna happen, there probably won’t be a warning. Moral of the story? Be vigilant and observant always. (Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not really out to get you.)
Yeah, I know…but humor is a tool, too. 😉
PS: For anyone interested, I’ll post a link to the policy after its approval next month. It never hurts to have comparisons.