Emergency Preparedness and the New Year by Andrew Barrett-Weiss

The last month of the year has so many meanings for different communities. In business, it is often a time to set goals and financials for the coming year. In schools, it is a time for first semester exams and planning for the new semester beginning after the holiday break. In the Christian Calendar, this is known as the season of Advent, a time of “expectant waiting and preparation.”

In the world of emergency preparedness and disaster planning, we are always in the season of Advent. We’re always preparing and waiting expectantly for whatever challenges may come our way. Here in California, we talk about earthquakes a lot. And the message we try to share is that it’s not a matter of “if” an earthquake is going to come, it’s a matter of “when.” With all of our clients, we stress the importance of making sure your community is prepared with resources, knowledge, and practice for the days when a crisis will happen.

Over the past few months, we’ve worked with so many schools on earthquake drills, fire drills, lockdown and shelter-in-place scenarios, and active shooter response protocols. Every time we participate, we see the community strengthen their muscle memory and learn new things about how they can respond better. And every time we do a drill or a moulage, or even a CPR or First Aid class, we hear a deep sigh of relief from members of the community who feel better prepared for the challenges that could come to their communities.

More and more, we’re hearing news about terrorist acts at events, churches, and schools. It’s always scary to think that this kind of thing could happen in your community. Nevertheless, I take great comfort when I see a story like the recent shooting at Rancho Tehama Elementary School in Northern California.  

At Rancho Tehama, the school staff and faculty were well trained and had a practiced lockdown protocol. A school secretary initiated the lockdown after hearing a couple of gunshots and the faculty and staff responded immediately. When a student was injured, a teacher and an aide used their first aid training to apply pressure to the child’s wound and ensured that he would survive.

The gunman stayed on the campus for nearly ten minutes trying to figure out how to get inside and cause more damage. Frustrated, the gunman turned his gun in the other direction, shooting hopelessly into an empty field away from the school. He then left the school and proceeded to cause havoc elsewhere before being stopped by police.

Because of their preparation, the school community was able to avoid potentially catastrophic loss. The incident, along with so many others reaffirms our belief in and commitment to empowering organizations to build safer communities. It demonstrates the success schools have when they focus on preparation and education.

During this December, we encourage you to celebrate the end of the year with your friends and family. We encourage you to reflect on the bright moments of the past year and look forward to the exciting opportunities ahead. And we remind you to live in a state of expectant waiting and preparation so you are ready for any challenges on the road ahead. Wishing all of our clients, friends, and collaborators a peaceful holiday season and a wonderful 2018!